R.I.P. Naya Rivera (1987 – 2020)

Naya Rivera for "Cosmopolitan" (8/16)I’d just started watching the sixth/final season of Glee a couple days before the news of Naya Rivera’s disappearance broke, and was already going through the usual ritual of wondering what she was up to these days and why she hadn’t become a bigger breakout star… she was so intensely talented and charismatic, and ‘Santana’ is pretty much the only character I still care about after all these years. I can’t help thinking that the show might have been cursed, considering how many of its young cast members have suffered such sad deaths*… but still I kept hoping that Rivera might have simply had a “mad moment” (due to lockdown-related stress), and tried to duck her responsibilities and disappear for a couple days, or something…? Tragically that wasn’t the case, as her body has now been recovered and officially identified. To quote the inestimable Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (via Twitter): “I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Naya Rivera. The talent and depth Naya brought to her characters inspired millions. As a Latina, it‘s rare to have rich, complex characters reflect us in media. Naya worked hard to give that gift to so many. Que descanse en paz.”

Glee’s creators, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, have also posted a glowing/moving tribute: “We are heartbroken over the loss of our friend Naya Rivera… Naya wasn’t a series regular when we cast her on Glee. She didn’t have more than a few lines in the pilot. But it didn’t take more than an episode or two for us to realize that we had lucked into finding one of the most talented, special stars we would ever have the pleasure of working with. Naya could act, she could dance, and she could sing (could she ever sing!) She could nail a joke as well as she could crush you with an emotional scene. She could move between being scary tough and deeply vulnerable with ease. She was a joy to write for, a joy to direct, and a joy to be around…

“Naya is responsible for numerous iconic Glee musical performances – The Adele Mash Up, Valerie, Songbird – but her greatest Glee legacy is probably the humor and humanity that she brought to Santana’s relationship with her best friend and eventual girlfriend/wife Brittany (played by Heather Morris). It was one of the first times an openly lesbian, high school relationship was seen on network television and Naya understood what ‘Brittana’ meant to the many young women who were seeing themselves represented on television for the first time. Naya always made sure that Santana’s love for Brittany was expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions. Naya was always moved by the girls who reached out to her to tell her how much Santana and Brittany’s love affected them. Naya’s obligation to them – and to all of her fans – was obvious. She had the rare combination of humility and endless confidence in her talent…

“Naya was a real pro. Always on time, always knew her lines (which wasn’t easy considering the giant mouthfuls of dialogue we often gave her), always kept everyone laughing on the set. She was warm and caring and fiercely protective of the rest of the cast. She was tough and demanding. She was fun. She was kind. She was generous. There were ups and downs during the wonderful and stressful years we spent making Glee. We disagreed, we fought, we made up, then we fought some more, than we made up again. The kinds of things that happen in a family. Naya was more than just an actor on our show – she was our friend.” Apparently they’ve also started a college fund for her 4-year-old son Josey, which is very sweet of them.

[Photo above taken from a Cosmopolitan interview with Rivera about her (currently out-of-print) memoir, Sorry Not Sorry (2016)… which I’m hoping a publisher will now re-release, so I can belatedly learn more about her, to fully reckon with the loss].


* It’s been noted that Rivera was found on the same day that her co-star Cory Monteith died seven years earlier, which is kinda spooky…

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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2 Responses to R.I.P. Naya Rivera (1987 – 2020)

  1. Burrunjor says:

    Such a tragedy. I didn’t watch Glee, but I knew about her through her covers of Back to Black and Valerie, both of which did them justice.

    Such an unbelievable tragedy and a loss for her family and fans. RIP.

    • Dee CrowSeer says:

      Yes… I don’t generally like covers of Amy Winehouse’s songs (even if they were already covers of other people’s songs when she sang them, because I’m odd like that), but their version of “Valerie” rocks. Brittana forever!

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