‘A completely out of this world talent’ (Picture: BBC)

Tributes have come pouring in following the news that George Ward, who competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK series 2 as Cherry Valentine, has died aged 28.

The drag artist and mental health nurse’s family announced the news in a statement, saying: ‘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.’

Drag Race host RuPaul paid tribute in an emotional message on Twitter, writing: ‘So sad to hear. A bright star and a lovely person. @TheCValentine Always in our hearts.’

BBC Three, the channel that airs Drag Race UK, shared a tribute to the late performer, which read: ‘We are devastated at the passing of George, who we also knew as Cherry Valentine.’

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

‘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.’

Drag Race UK said in a statement: ‘We are heartbroken that Cherry has passed away. She was 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.’

Devastated fans have been paying tribute (Picture: thecherryvalentine/Instagram/BBC)

Cheryl Hole, who competed Drag Race UK series one, wrote on Twitter: ‘I never thought I’d have to write something like this about such a talented and beautiful person that was Cherry.

‘We have lost an incredible queen and I’m honestly devastated! RIP @TheCValentine I LOVE YOU.’

Ellie Diamond, who was in the series two cast alongside Cherry, tweeted: ‘I’m in shock at the news and the passing of my dear sister cherry! Love you sister! Xx.’

Bimini, who was a runner-up that year, wrote on Twitter: ‘At a loss for words. One of those souls so pure, so raw, so real. I’m incredibly lucky to have known George and witnessed their infectious spirit. Their patience and kindness was their superpower.

‘They saw you for you and not many people have that empathetic trait. My heart.’

Joe Black, who also appeared on the second season of the competition, shared a couple of photos of Ward on social media, saying they were ‘in shock’ by their loss.

‘I’m in shock and not quite sure how to process the news. RIP Cherry. I will cherish the times we had together,’ Black wrote.

‘An exceptional artist and person. My love goes out to their friends and family and everyone who knew them.’

Copper Topp, who’s currently starring on the third series of Drag Race UK, wrote: ‘This is devastating news! Cherry was one of the most inventive and gorgeous Queens to ever grace the drag race stage.

‘Her work uplifting her community as well as her work as a mental health nurse will also never be forgotten. Rest in power Queen!’

Kandy Muse, who competed on season 13 of Drag Race in the US, wrote in her tribute: ‘I’m at a lost for words. RIP you angel,’ while season 14 star Deja Skye tweeted: ‘REST IN POWER.’

Good Morning Britain’s Charlotte Hawkins shared a photo of herself meeting the late drag performer at Epsom in June, saying they were ‘so full of life’.

‘Very sad to hear that Cherry Valentine has died, aged just 28. We met back in June at Epsom – so full of life then, it’s hard to believe,’ the presenter wrote.

‘Sending love to George’s family & friends, just heartbreaking.’

One fan paid homage to Ward by tweeting: ‘Rest in Peace to one of the most talented and beautiful queens in the world! Cherry Valentine you will be so so so missed!’

Another wrote: ‘My heart goes out to Cherry’s family in this tough time. Sending love and strength. Cherry was a talented artist who touched our hearts and soul and her and her art will forever live in our hearts. Rest in Peace, Cherry Valentine.’

Someone else described the late performer from Darlington, County Durham as ‘a completely out of this world talent’, saying that they died ‘tragically young’.

A ‘heartbroken’ fan described how much of an ‘inspiration’ Cherry was to them and to ‘have been in her presence’.

Ward returned to nursing when filming for Drag Race UK was put on hold during the pandemic (Picture: George Ward/PA)

‘She is an absolute legend and was so so kind. R.I.P. you beauty,’ they wrote.

One individual emphasised how much of an impact Ward had as both a frontline nurse working for the NHS during the pandemic and through their BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud.

‘I know the documentary you did, about growing up gay within the traveller community, will have helped so many people!!’ they stated.

Ward, who grew up as part of the Traveller community, qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015.

A fundraising page has been set up on GoFundMe to raise money for a vigil in Ward’s hour, with a set target of £10,000.

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