George Ward, known by most as Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28, his family has announced.

He passed away on Sunday (18 September), with his death described as a “profound shock” by his loved ones.

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

“This will come as a profound shock to most people and we understand there is no easy way for this to be announced.”

Ward was raised in Darlington, County Durham and was a member of the Traveller community.

He rose to fame after appearing on the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK before fronting the BBC documentary, Gypsy Queen and Proud.

Before getting into drag, Ward qualified as a mental health nurse – something he said “put me in that right position to be able to understand people a bit more” during his introductory video for the competition.

“If you are a drag queen you are working with people,” he added. “And to understand people I think you go the extra mile.”

More recently, Ward appeared in the music video for Charli XCX’s hit single Good Ones alongside a number of other Drag Race UK stars.

“As his family, we are still processing his death and our lives will never be the same,” his family continued.

“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.”

More information on remembering Cherry Valentine can be found here.