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Santana Lopez will always hold a special place in Gleeks' hearts.
Demi Lovato kicked things off, celebrating the 10th anniversary of Santana's coming out on the show. "I will always cherish the chance I got to play Naya's girlfriend Dani on Glee," she said. "The character Naya played, Santana Lopez, was groundbreaking for closeted queer girls like I was at the time and her ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world."
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Much of the cast reminisced about Rivera's talents, with Jane Lynch reflecting on how much Rivera impressed her when she made the jump from back-up dancer to regular cast member. Alex Newell and Becca Tobin remembered how blown away they were by their first time seeing Rivera perform on set during her "Nutbush City Limits" number.
The cast also celebrated Rivera's legacy as a mom to son Josey. "Her best role was being a mom," said Jenna Ushkowitz, while Matthew Morrison noted, "To see her put all that energy into her son was just such a sight to see and something I'll always remember."
FOX Image Collection via Getty Images Naya Rivera and Heather Morris as Santana and Brittany on 'Glee'
The cast ended by celebrating Rivera's relationship with GLAAD, hosting the Media Awards twice, including once with Cory Monteith. Costar Chris Colfer paid tribute to how Santana's coming out and her family's rejection of her reflected an unfortunate reality for many LGBTQ kids.
They closed by reading a statement from Rivera's mom, Yolanda Previtire. "Naya would be honored to receive this recognition," Jessalyn Gilsig read. "When Naya was told that Santana would be a lesbian she called me to let me know and I asked her how did she feel about that, and she said, 'I feel great about it!' Little did we know that she would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community."
"Her desire was to always be an advocate to those who did not have a voice," the statement concluded. "I don't believe she realized how important she was to this world. I am grateful that my eldest daughter helped to change the landscape of how we view and see each other. Thank you GLAAD for keeping my daughter's legacy alive."
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