The stars and artists of the "RuPaul's Drag Race" franchise are paying tribute to performer Cherry Valentine, a contestant on "RuPaul's Drag Race UK" who died Sunday at age 28.
Valentine, whose real name is George Ward, gained popularity competing on the sophomore season of the spinoff series, where she was eliminated on the second episode. Ward's publicist confirmed to The Times that he died on Sept. 18. A cause of death was not confirmed.
“It is with the most heart wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George — Cherry Valentine — has tragically passed away. This will come as a profound shock to most people & we understand there is no easy way for this to be announced," his family said in a statement provided to The Times. "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."
In January 2021, Cherry Valentine entered the workroom of "RuPaul's Drag Race UK" and immediately made a fellow queen laugh. While making her grand entrance, Valentine bumped her elaborate headpiece against a door frame and nearly knocked it down.
"Roses are red and violets are blue, here's your winner of Season 2," she said after brushing off the mishap.
Before debuting on "Drag Race UK," the Darlington artist described Cherry Valentine as "glamour, she's club kid, she's dark, she's gothic." In addition to being a drag performer, Ward prided himself on his work as a mental health nurse.
"I think it's put me in that right position to be able to understand people a bit more, and if you're a drag queen, you're working with people, and to understand people I think you go the extra mile," he said as Valentine.
The official "Drag Race UK" Twitter account remembered Valentine as a "kind soul who brought joy and a distinctive laugh to everyone she met."
"She brought flair, verve and charm to #DragRaceUK, we will miss her so deeply," the show tweeted.
"Drag Race UK" Season 2's Miss Congeniality winner, Bimini, said Valentine was "one of those souls so pure, so raw, so real."
"I'm incredibly lucky to have known George and witnessed their infectious spirit," she tweeted. "Their patience and kindness was their superpower. They saw you for you and not many people have that empathetic trait. My heart."
See more tributes from the "Drag Race" community below.
Rip cherry valentine I love you and your insane artistry forever 🖤
— Gottmik (@gottmik) September 23, 2022
So very sad to hear of the passing of Cherry Valentine. You were a healer, what a beautiful thing to be. Sending love to family, friends and community grieving the loss of this beautiful person. Rest In Peace 🕊🕯
— Scarlet Envy (@ScarletEnvyNYC) September 23, 2022
"As an artist, nurse and an activist Cherry will always remain a beloved member of our Drag Race family," wrote "Drag Race" producer World of Wonder. "Cherry's love and irresistibly infectious laugh touched the lives of so many."
RIP Cherry Valentine 💔
— Adore Delano (@AdoreDelano) September 23, 2022
"RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 2" winner Alaska tweeted, "My heart is breaking for the loss of one of our sisters ... We will miss you Cherry Valentine ... I'm sending so much love to her family and loved ones today ..."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.