Cherry Valentine died by suicide after struggling with Drag Race fame, inquest told

Cherry Valentine

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine died aged 28 by suicide after “struggling” to cope with fame, an inquest has heard. 

On Thursday (9 February), the hearing was told that Valentine, whose real name was George Ward, was found hanged in their north London flat by their lifelong friend and flatmate, Kate, on September 18 last year. Her death was announced on 23 September.

Ward took their own life while their flatmate was out at a concert. Following her return she found a clothes rack blocking the door to Ward’s room and a note that read: “Kate, please read this and do not go in,” the inquest heard.

After forcing the door open Kate phoned emergency services, who were unable to resuscitate Ward. 

Three A4 pages of suicide notes were found in Ward’s room, one addressed to Kate, and two others to his family and unspecified people. 

North London Coroner’s Court heard how Ward had been “struggling with their rise to fame” since appearing on the second season of BBC Three’s RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. He had also presented the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen and Proud. 

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A friend of Ward’s explained that their extravagance may have been a “mask” he was hiding behind, and shared that he had previously “battled” with depression. 

Ward, who used he/they pronouns when not in drag and was genderfluid, had been “disowned” by his family at 18 after coming out, the inquest heard. 

Cherry Valentine, whose real name was George Ward, out of drag
Cherry Valentine, whose real name was George Ward, died on 18 September. (Instagram/ thecherryvalentine)

He had, however, recently “rekindled” a relationship with his family, who came from an English Traveller community in Darlington, County Durham. 

Kate, who shared the flat with Ward in Hornsey, London, disclosed in a post mortem report that she had noticed a difference in their sleeping pattern in weeks leading up to their death. 

Assistant coroner Dr Peter Strake concluded: “I will return the verdict that George Ward killed himself.

“[Ward’s family] have my greatest sympathy at this time, and I am very sad that it is someone so young who dies in this way.”

Ward was introduced to the drag scene in Manchester while studying mental health nursing at the University of Cumbria. After qualifying he worked as a mental health nurse. 

After moving to London he was announced on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK in December 2020, but following filming being paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic he went back to the NHS to assist in vaccination efforts.

Following their death tributes poured in from across the drag world and beyond, with Cherry Valentine’s loved ones having launched a fundraiser to hold a public vigil in honour of their lasting legacy.

The campaign aimed to raise £10,000 and effortlessly passed its goal. 

If you are affected by any of the details in this article, Samaritans offer a helpline that is open 365 days a year, and can be reached by calling  116 123, free of charge, or emailing [email protected]

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