People come and go, that is the way this universe works. However, there are very few who leave such a lasting impact as can be seen even after they are no more with us. One such character is Naya Rivera Glee. In her seemingly short life, she made a strong impact both within and outside her profession. Enough has been said about her tragic death, we focus on her life, achievements, and the mark she made in this world.

Reading about her teaches that it does not matter how long you stay in this world, if you are honest to yourself and to your obligations you will inspire a lot of souls that come after you.

Who was Naya Rivera?

Glee star, Naya Marie Rivera, sometimes referred to as Naya Rivera Glee, was an actor, singer, and philanthropist. Born on 12 January 1987 in California, USA, Naya Rivera spent a lot of her time in Los Angeles. The glee star was of mixed descent sharing characteristics of Puerto Rican, American, and more. When the word  “Afro-Latinx” was widespread in 2010 she was recognized as such.

Who was Naya Rivera

Naya Rivera’s Childhood

Naya Rivera Glee’s father George Rivera was a sales representative for famous brands such as Disney. Her mother Yolanda was a former model. Tying the knot in 1986, Rivera’s parents split up in 1996 with her mother tying the knot again in 1996 with Charles Previtaia. Naya Rivera Glee, however, remained close to her father. According to Naya Rivera Glee, her mother named her after her goddess Naya. She says that her mother had a parrot named Naya before she was born.

Naya Rivera Glee was a fan of Michael Jackson’s from her childhood. Although she could not get close to Jackson, she made friends with Jackson’s cousin when she was a child star.

Naya Rivera Glee graduated from High school but what many people don’t know is that her mother wished her to join the choir but Naya left soon after joining the same. She could not bear being cast aside for another singer in the choir. At one point, she wanted to become a cheerleader. Naya Rivera Glee was focused on her acting and auditions throughout her school days.

She once described her High School experience as the worst. The celebrity did not only have a difficult childhood due to being a victim of racial abuse but also suffered from a medical condition. Naya Rivera Glee describes her suffering from anorexia during her teenage years in her book in detail.

This shows that she was no different growing up and went through the same circumstances as many of the teenage girls of her age do. This is one of the reasons why she was able to garner so much attention in the entertainment industry later on. Her honesty, down-to-earth attitude, and her commitment to helping others are what truly made her a star.

Naya Rivera’s Start in Showbiz

As a baby, Naya Rivera had gotten the opportunity to star in Kmart adverts. The Glee star’s first significant job was when she was four years old in which she played the role of Hilary Winston on the show “The Royal Family” in 1991. The star could not read from the scripts directly and hence had to hone her recitation skills to learn the art of acting. This skill became permanent, as she was quite known for memorizing the lines speedily without making any mistakes. The show did quite well, however, did not make it through as the major star of the show died due to a heart attack.

In the entertainment industry growing up as a mixed-race, she found out that her mixed-race had both pros and cons for her career. She explained that sometimes she found that the casting directors could not typecast her, because she never one race or the other. They thought that she never fit in one role perfectly. However, her mixed-race gave her many different opportunities in the acting

“wasn’t Black enough, or Latina enough” and struggled to get roles of either ethnicity. On the other hand, the advantage of being mixed race was explained by her that she “could play a lot of different ethnicities, from just plain old dark-skinned white girl to Latino, to African-American.

Success Story of Naya Rivera

Naya Marie Rivera was cast as Santana Lopez, a high school cheerleader, on Fox’s musical comedy series, which was about a high school glee club in 2009. While working on the first three episodes of Glee Naya kept her job as a nanny, due to not having the surety that they would bring her back or not. Murphy was quite impressed by Naya that he “convinced the network” to contract her at this point.

Success story

Naya Rivera Glee TV shows & Movies

Naya Rivera Glee TV series

Starring on Fox, the show Glee lasted 6 good years providing the best combination of music and comedy to the fans of the show. The show started in 2009 and was based on a music club by the name of New Directions. The story sees many different characters in highschool trying to succeed while facing life problems such as coming of age, race, relationships, and more. The series not only focuses on music and comedy but also shines a light on the social issues in society these days. The series became popular as the fans started to relate to the characters as they slowly developed over the episodes.

The creators of this series were Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, the latter of whom first originated the idea of Glee as a film. All of the episodes of the first two seasons of the show were written by the three of them, and initially, Murphy and Falchuk served as the main directors of the show.

Naya Rivera Glee Auditions

Naya Marie Rivera auditioned for the show Glee, because for two reasons one to experience the combination of singing and dancing, and secondly because she was a big fan of the work of the producer, Ryan Murphy, due to his exceptional work in the series nip/tuck. For the preparation of the role, she used her own personal experiences in life from being bullied to being the laughing stock of the class and also by watching films such as Mean Girls to get into a character with attitude.

Naya Rivera Glee Character

Naya Marie Rivera explained that her Glee series character, Santana, had a huge attitude making her an antagonist in many eyes, however, fans loved the role she played. She also went on to state that the fantastic one-liners and the attitude that Santana took on were also a reason for her liking the character.

In Glee’s first season Santana wasn’t given much of a role as the producers wanted to see how the character and acting went and if fans enjoyed Santana. A lot of fans related to Santana and this is one of the reasons why the character was given more screen time during the last few episodes of the first season. Rivera said that Santana was a house wrecker meaning having relationships here and there with different people. Many may perceive her as a villain at times however once her character started to open and develop people fell in love with her.

Naya Rivera’s role took a change in the series Glee after the first season. Her character Santana started dealing with her internal struggles only to find out that she was attracted to the same sex. Her sexuality was a huge breakthrough for her character, her fans, and also for the scenes between Santana and her best friend. Her character found it very difficult to come out of the closet because the producers of the show thought of this “little secret” as a joke for the series, however, Naya was adamant to push for this role which became a major breakthrough for Glee.

Naya Rivera Glee Best Songs

Naya Marie Rivera changed and saved countless lives through her role as Santana In the show, Glee. Her magical voice and her talent played an immense role in the show. And her performances will live in our hearts forever. Nobody could forget her iconic monologues as Santana in which she could read someone to filth without giving as much as a second thought and then break it into a song. Let’s look at some of the songs sung by Naya Rivera that left us mesmerized.

The cooperation between the two actresses Naya Rivera and Amber Riley, the performance of the song “River Deep, Mountain High”, originally by Ika and Tina Turner, is meticulous. This performance displayed everything, the choreography of the dance steps, the high vocals, and the attitude that matched the entire routine. Whenever these remarkable performers joined together, it truly was an iconic and remarkable occasion. Although these collaborations didn’t occur often, they always got the spotlight and reigned as the performance of the day.

Another song that left an impression was Songbird which was sung originally by Fleetwood Mac. It was one of those performances that showed Santana’s character as being an intimate person while Naya Rivera got to display her acting skills completely. Fans got to see how intimate Santana can get behind all that attitude and cheerleading. Santana during this song gets to express her feelings to Brittany, her best friend. Fans were not expecting this moment and this is what it gave it its charm. The song is emotional and heart-wrenching if you hear it and imagine what struggle Santana has been going through internally. It related to many of her fans around the world which made the “songbird” moment one of the best in the series.

Barbara Streisand – Don’t rain on my parade Sung by Naya Rivera

Let’s face the facts: Rachel Berry ( Lea Michele) really needed peace of mind and a wake-up call when she was finally able to make it to Broadway. And Santana was the most accurate person to put her in her place. In the song by Barbara Streisand, don’t rain on my parade, the pure power that radiates from her in this performance is unbelievable and undeniable as well. She storms into the audition in the hopes of being Rachel’s understudy in Funny Girl and blows the roof off the theatre leaving everybody shocked and surprised. The climax of her performance of the song “Don’t Rain on My Parade “ can be summed in one word: historic.

The combination of the trio actress, Naya Rivera, Amber Riley, and Heather Morris was one of the best ideas the producers had for the show. The mashup of Adele songs rumor has it and the emotional powerhouse of someone like you was perfect with Santana belting out her vocals that were sweet and serene while the attitude and flow from the other two simply provided synergy leading to a spectacular performance. The three women displayed emotions, power, and attitude as they floored the set with a stunning cover by the great Adele. Many thought that justice can’t be done with an Adele cover but they were wrong. The performance was phenomenal.

This is the second time when Santana showed her love for Brittany and the song, make no mistake which was originally sung by Kenny Rogers and Ronnie Milsap, was executed perfectly. Rivera took on the song with help from Chord Overstreet. The thing was that during the season, Sam who had expressed his desires for Brittany led to an emotional heartbreak faced by Santana who slowly got consumed with jealousy. Although the two, Santana and Brittany weren’t dating at the time, her love confession in the song left fans speechless leaving an emotional mark on those who have been through this before. Santana through her songs became very relatable among the teenage generation.

One of the most covered songs in the world has vocals, choreography, and a lot of sass which was demonstrated by Santana, in Destiny’s child song survivor, when she blew the performance through the roof with some help from Mercedes and troubletones. The song had everything, the dresses were on point and the vocals were simply stunning. The best part was how the three singers supported each other with really high energy levels.

In a rare and precious moment, while preparing for Broadway, Santana and Rachel sang along to Katy Perry’s “Brave”. It’s a memorable and touching moment between the two vocal powerhouses.

Without a doubt, Santana had one of the strongest voices on Glee which was displayed in the song “girl on fire”. Taking an example when her voice lends itself to this song, which is Alicia Keys’ hit. The range of her belt is very rare and pretty amazing even among some of the legendary singers that have lived.

While on the topic of range, Naya made people believe by her rendition that not only can she perfect the art of singing songs like “Girl on Fire”, but can also sing emotional and touching songs like “Mine” very perfectly. The songs through which Santana professed her yearning love to Brittany became the highlight of Glee every single time and that is the power of representation.

The song, “Cold Hearted“ by Paula Abdul, is also one of the greatest in the series. Naya sings immaculately by portraying the darker side of Santana, which everybody is eager to enjoy every time. With her performance of “Cold Hearted”, Santana outperformed anyone on set at the time.

The final song that we are going to discuss here is by Band Perry “if i die young”. This performance is quite explainable itself. Performed as a tribute to Finn’s (Cory Monteith) death by Naya, the song now holds double meaning after the death of Naya Rivera, which is “R.I.P Naya Rivera, and thank you for changing our lives”.

Naya Rivera Projects other than Glee

Naya Rivera Musical projects

Naya Rivera Glee got her first album breakthrough with Colombia records Durojf and the fourth season of the Glee. According to her, there were the most desirable moments of her life. This was the time when she started taking other projects as well.

After that Naya Rivera glee did a song with 2Cellos and featured it in its music video as well. However, her first single song “sorry” featured rapper Big Sean. The song quickly became viral. This was a different experience for Naya because the songs she had done in Glee were quite different.

Naya Rivera The Devil’s door

Devil’s Door was the first film Rivera did. She had a lead role in it. The Devil’s Door is considered by many as a unique film in the horror genre. It was released in 2014.

Naya Rivera Devious Maids

Rivera made her debut again on Glee in the fifth season of in the year 2015 but requested a reduction in her role because she wanted to spend a bit more time on other projects such as Devious Maids. This was a drama series in its third season when Naya joined it. She played Blanca Albarez in the show.

Also, she hosted the TV show The View as a guest host during that period.

Naya Rivera Hunger games: catching fire

Naya Rivera Glee was cast in the Hunger Games sequel called Catching Fire. She played the exciting role of Johanna Mason in the film. Before that, she had been under consideration for the role of Katniss Everdeen in the first Hunger Games movie but did not play this late.

Naya Rivera Hosting “The View” and writing a book

During the hosting of The View, Naya Rivera Glee was stunned by a question from the audience when one of them asked her about the actress being a huge influence on the new generation. Feeling that she had not done enough to deserve this title, Naya Rivera Glee understood that many of her fans related to her life and her character in the series, and therefore she wanted to help others by sharing her own experience through her book and memoir called “Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up”.

In this book, she revealed personal experiences from how she faced racism as a teen actress to the brawl with Michele during the shooting of Glee.

The Royal Family

This film revolved around the story of a mail carrier and his family. Naya Rivera played the role of the mail carrier’s granddaughter Hillary.

Mad Families

Naya’s role in Mad Families was secondary, but one of the memorable roles of her film career. In this film, Rivera’s role was of a peacemaker among the three families of different ethnicities.

Step up: high water

Naya Rivera Glee took the role of a school administrator in the YouTube Red series “Step up: high water” as Adam Shankman, the producer of the show wanted Rivera to play a role. She had worked with him twice before that and had an amazing working relationship with Adam and therefore took on the character.

Master of disguise

Another one of Naya Rivera Glee’s projects was Master of disguise. She is remembered for her role in this movie. This was a story of an Italian waiter who used his powers of disguise to take on a criminal mastermind.

The Naughty List

Naya Rivera Glee was featured in an animation film “The Naughty List” as the voice of the character sparkle. This shows her being one of the diverse actors to ever step into the Hollywood industry not only taking movies on but also animation too.


Frankenhood is a horror-comedy that is remembered for many things, one of them being the diverse acting skills of Naya Rivera Glee.

Stage shows

In addition to her career in TV, movies, and singing she also appeared in stage shows. “U Don’t Know Me” was her first stage appearance in 2006. A few years later she appeared in a Glee live concert as Santana Lopez.

Public image

Throughout her career, Naya Rivera Glee maintained a robust presence in the public. She featured in various magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Maxim, FHM, and many more.

She was at number three in the hot 100 lists in Maxim in 2010. For the next two years, she ranked number one in Hot 100 list. She also got picked for FHM’s 100 sexiest women list and 50 most beautiful list of another Magazine.

She was also seen in:

  • 35 under 35 Latinos
  • Brand promotion of NIOXIN
  • As a spokesperson for the Proactiv
  • And more

Naya Rivera’s Personal life

Naya Rivera’s Relationships Ex’s & Family

Naya Rivera Glee reportedly dated actor Tahj Mowry between 2000 and 2004. They both met after their first shoot of a commercial when Rivera was four and they both later worked together on Smart Guy in the 1990s. After Naya Rivera Glee went missing, Taj Mowry professed his love for his ex-girlfriend in an Instagram tribute post writing how she was everything and made him a better person.

According to the reports, she started dating her recording artist Big Sean in April 2013. Both announced their engagement later in October 2013 but unfortunately, the couple broke up in April 2014 due to some unknown reasons. In his track “All Me” by Drake, Big Sean rapped about Naya Rivera Glee while they were together. But after they broke up she asked Big Sean not to write a song about her anymore.

Relationships and family

Naya’s Philanthropy & Advocacy

Naya Rivera Glee was a staunch supporter of the LGBT+ community. She gave a valuable amount of time to organizations such as GLAAD, Stand Up to Cancer, The Trevor Project, The Elephant Project, I am an Immigrant, and Alliance of moms.

If we leave everything else and take only the Naya Rivera Glee role of Santana Lopez, this role alone opened countless doors for mainstreaming of LGBTQ debate.

Naya Rivera’s Religion

Naya Rivera Glee was a lifelong Christian and she mentioned this in her memoir. She also wrote about how her mother was very religious and strict towards her and her brother in their childhood. They were only allowed to listen to Christian music. Even in junior high school talent shows she would perform on Christian songs only. Naya Rivera Glee also wrote that she was a lesbian and there was no apprehension from her family about that storyline as she wrote about her mother that she is pretty cool about it.

Naya Rivera’s Awards & Nominations

At the age of five, Rivera was first nominated for an award in 1992. After being consistently nominated for various awards, she won awards for singing, acting public image, and audience awards. She won 9 awards from the 24 nominations for her work on Glee.

The last award she won was for the cast and production of Step-up: High Water providing equal female representation in 2018, it was almost 26 years after her first nomination.  A few of her awards and nominations are as follows.

Naya Rivera Glee was nominated four times for Alma awards, out of which she won three awards. She was also nominated for this award in the category of the best-supporting actress TV series in 2009 but did not win it. Naya Rivera won this award for her glee performance in 2010. After that, she was nominated for the same in 2011 and 2013.

Naya Rivera Glee secured another nomination in 2014 for her infamous role in the TV series Glee. For her exceptional performance in The Royal Family, she was nominated for this award in 1992.

Naya Rivera Glee & Lea Michele

Despite enjoying life to the maximum, Naya Rivera Glee was not out of the news during her career. Her fans as well as those who are into Hollywood gossip know all too well about her beef with Lea Michele.

Naya Rivera Glee and Lea Michele

The Feud

Reportedly, there was a big feud between the former co-stars Naya Rivera Glee and Lea Michele in 2014. Both are seen speaking about each other’s actions. This was particularly because Naya Rivera once played Glee cheerleader Santana, and this character’s position on the show grew.

According to the US weekly magazine, Naya Rivera Glee and Lea Michele were wary of each other primarily because Naya was jealous of Michele’s role in the show as a leading lady. Naya is envious of Lea’s role as the show’s leading lady.

However, both Naya Rivera Glee and Lea Michele denied, on more than one occasion, any bad blood between them.

However, Naya Rivera’s book “Sorry Not Sorry” addressed the quarrel differently. She says in her book that both Naya Rivera Glee and Lea Michele were competitive, strong-willed, and resilient women. And that they were necessary for the show.

The Feud became intense as time passed. Naya Rivera Glee and Lea Michele did not see eye to eye in the later seasons of Glee. Lea Michele became famous for her character and was taking more screen time, which was not acceptable for Naya. Naya Rivera Glee explains that Michele was never a team player during the show and that she did not speak a single word with Naya during season 6. After stating the facts, Naya Rivera Glee shows her strong character and respects Michele’s ambitions by saying that both Naya Rivera Glee and Lea Michele were ambitious and it was a difficult combination for the show.

There came a time when Naya’s future on the show seemed in jeopardy due to this beef. It is said that Naya was not happy when Michele delayed the shooting of the show on the anniversary of her late boyfriend Cory Monteith. The beef got so intense that Michele being a co-producer of the show tried to influence Naya out of the show.

The Tribute to Naya Rivera

On confirmation of Naya’s tragic death, Michele shared black and white photos of Naya and Monteith in the expression of her grief. This shows that even though both of them were competitors, mutual respect between Naya Rivera Glee and Lea Michele never vanished.

The Tribute went viral because the world was aware of the feud between the two co-stars.

Death of Naya Rivera

In July 2020, Naya Rivera Glee went missing for five days straight. After 5 days of search, her body was found in the lake Piru near Santa Clarita. She left this world at the age of 33. She died on the same day one of her friends died a few years back. It is said that she went swimming with her son where she drowned trying to save him.

Naya Rivera Glee made a name for herself in this world but left it before she could ripe the fruits of what she had contributed to the world. Even during her last days, she was busy shooting Step Up. That shows her love and passion for her work.

Naya Rivera’s Legacy

Naya Rivera is one of the first to represent Afro-Latinos. Through her queer character in Glee, she opened up a vast horizon of debate on the LGBT+ issues. She has been described as an icon for the said community.

Naya Rivera Glee’s role in the glee-inspired stories such as Latinidad. In one of the novels, Naya Rivera’s role in Glee was mentioned as having played a complex role of the first lesbian of Afro-Latin descent. Her Glee character inspired debates and stories about stereotypes surrounding LGBT+. This character has single-handedly cast a lasting impact on the TV world.

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