After a five-day search in and around Lake Piru, California, award-winning actor and musician Naya Rivera was found dead on July 13, 2020. She was 33 years old, and is survived by her four-year old son, whom she was boating and swimming with on the lake before she drowned. According to sheriff’s reports, Rivera herself saved her son when she saw him begin to drown.
Rivera began her career as a child actor, playing a regular role on sitcoms The Royal Family and The Bernie Mac Show. She also guest-starred on shows like Family Matters, The Sinbad Show, Baywatch, Smart Guy, Even Stevens, 8 Simple Rules, Girlfriends, and CSI: Miami.
Rivera’s most well-known role was as Santana Lopez on Glee, the smash musical drama about a high school glee club created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. The role is seen by many as pivotal in terms of representation for POC and LGBTQ communities. Rivera played the role throughout the series’ six-season run, earning a SAG, TV Land, and ALMA award in the process. Rivera also began blossoming as a musician, not just with her charting Glee singles, but with her Big Sean-featuring single “Sorry.”
After Glee ended, Rivera performed in American Dad and Step Up: High Water, guest-judged on Rupaul’s Drag Race, and continued her philanthropic efforts working with charities like The Trevor Project, Stand Up to Cancer, and GLAAD. She gave birth to her son in 2015, alongside her ex-husband actor Ryan Dorsey whom she divorced in 2018. Rivera’s final tweet is a picture of her and her son, with the words “Just the two of us.”
Below, many of Hollywood’s finest, including many of Rivera’s co-stars, pay tribute to the wonderful actor and singer. RIP Naya Rivera, 1987-2020.