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RuPaul’s Drag Race star Cherry Valentine dies aged 28

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George Ward, the drag performer who became famous under his stage name, Cherry Valentine, has died aged 28.

Ward was raised in Darlington and qualified as a mental health nurse, before moving into a career in drag. A scene he was first introduced to while a student at Lancaster University.

“It is with the most heart-wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away,” said his family in a statement.

“This will come as a profound shock to most people and we understand there is no easy way for this to be announced. As his family, we are still processing his death and our lives will never be the same.

“We understand how much he is loved and how many lives he has inspired and touched. All we ask is for your patience and your prayers in this time. We love you Georgie.”

Competing in the second series of the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it gave Ward the courage to rediscover his roots in the traveller community in the North East of England.

In a documentary, Gypsy Queen and Proud, by True North for BBC Three, Ward explained that he’d moved away from the region when he was 18 and had little contact with the community apart from his mother.

In the film he confronted his “painful past” and tried to discover why he was only truly happy when he was Cherry Valentine.

“We are all shocked and heartbroken to hear the news of the passing of George, known to many as Cherry Valentine,” said Fiona Campbell, BBC Three Controller.

“A fan favourite and an inspiration to so many,  we were privileged to have worked with him at BBC Three.

“He will be hugely missed by his many fans and friends. Our deepest sympathies are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

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