Cherry Valentine posing in an iconic drag look. (Twitter)
As well as being a one-of-a-kind drag artist, Cherry Valentine knew exactly how to shut down anti-drag arguments with class.
The drag icon’s family – whose real name was George Ward – tragically passed away last Sunday (18 September) at just 28-years-old.
The genderfluid artist’s family said in a Friday (28 September) statement: “We understand how much he is loved and how many lives he has inspired and touched.”
Since then, tributes from members of the drag community have poured in, with stars including Cheryl Hole describing Ward as “such a talented and beautiful person” while others recalled their work as a mental health advocate since qualifying in 2015.
But Ward also knew best how to handle a discussion with typical anti-drag pundits in a profoundly professional way that eloquently described the plight of the LGBTQ+ community.
On 14 June 2022, Ward participated in a debate on GB News where they expertly outlined why claiming that drag is blanketly inappropriate for children is “really silly.”
Watch in full on the GB News YouTube channel https://t.co/mwS98TT58d
— GB News (@GBNEWS) June 14, 2022
“I’ve just done a tour over the last three months and met thousands of children under 18 and they absolutely loved every second of it,” Ward said. “Their parents were there and they enjoyed every moment and said how much it helped their children feel like they could become themselves a bit more.”
Donning an on-brand red and black drag look that was powerful and classy all at the same time, Ward dismissed claims by author Laura Dodsworth that drag is inherently “evening entertainment” and that drag represents a “sexist view of womanhood.”
“I think drag allows people, and especially children when they’re going up, to really just help them navigate it all,” Ward continued. “Because we are being thrown things like phrases, we’re being thrown new words constantly all the time.
“I’m a qualified mental health nurse, so I wouldn’t classify myself as a sexual person in drag, I just use it for artistic reasons, I use it for self-expression, to play with gender – to question how we should be in a society.”
Throughout the entire debate, Ward kept their composure despite tiring mentions of a so-called “transgender ideology” and further claims that drag “plays into sexist stereotypes.” They simply let the facts speak for themselves and came off incredibly well.
This is just one example of the incredible activism that Ward was involved in. They weren’t just an incredible representative for the drag community, but also a doer that helped marginalised communities through thick and thin.
In 2020, Ward returned to work in the NHS as a mental health nurse midway through filming season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK as the COVID-19 pandemic reached its height in the UK .
Speaking to PinkNews in 2021, they said: “It was madness, absolute madness, but I just feel so privileged to have been able to help however I can.”
They became the first-ever queen of Romany descent to appear in a Drag Race franchise show and would eventually star in the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen and Proud, which they told PinkNews in January aimed to “show people that Travellers are everywhere.”