Traveller Pride ‘beyond grateful’ to have called Drag Race UK’s Cherry Valentine ‘a friend’

Drag performer Cherry Valentine walks into the werkroom of Drag Race Uk series two

Traveller Pride has paid an emotional tribute to Cherry Valentine, remembering the Drag Race UK star’s “buoyant and genuine love and care”. 

On Friday (23 September), it was announced that the drag performer – whose real name was George Ward – tragically died on Sunday (18 September). Ward was only 28 years old. 

Several Drag Race stars, RuPaul and fans remembered Ward for their work as a mental health nurse and an advocate who broke down barriers as they spoke about growing up LGBTQ+ in the Traveller community. 

Traveller Pride, a group made up of LGBTQ+ Travellers advocating for the rights of the intersectional community, expressed the group’s ‘indescribable’ sadness at the news of Ward’s death on Twitter. 

“Just waking to the news that [Cherry Valentine] (our George) died over the weekend,” Traveller Pride wrote.

“Indescribably sad. We will release a full statement in the next few days. George’s buoyant and genuine love and care were so nourishing and we’re beyond grateful to have called him a friend.”

In a later post, the group said it was still “gathering thoughts” in the wake of the tragic news, feeling “still numb and off kilter”. 

“I put so much of the success and growth of Traveller Pride over the past year down to Cherry Valentine,” the group said. 

“Being open on drag race and then later the film, an enormous impact. We will be forever grateful.”

Tyler Hatwell, founder of Traveller Pride, added: “I cannot overstate how lovely George was to be around. His spirit is one to cherish.”

Ward qualified as a mental health nurse before appearing on the second series of Drag Race UK. They returned to work in the NHS when production of the series was halted temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ward felt “so privileged” to help those in need. 

After appearing in the drag competition, Ward launched a successful TV career and fronted the BBC documentary Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud. The documentary follows Ward revisiting their upbringing and discussing being queer and part of the Traveller community.

Cherry Valentine’s loved ones have launched a fundraiser to hold a public vigil in honour of the Drag Race UK star’s lasting legacy. The campaign aims to raise £10,000 for the vigil to be organised in collaboration with Ward’s family and loved ones.