Best known for her work on Glee as Santana Lopez, Naya Rivera's talent and individuality struck a chord with audiences, who were drawn to both her singing and her character's growth. Lopez started out as a villain but developed a relationship with fellow cheerleader Brittany Pierce and stood toe-to-toe with the show's lead, Rachel Berry. Fans paid tribute to both Lopez and Rivera today as news came out of Ventura, California, with officials stating that her body had been found after a presumed drowning in Lake Piru.
Many came forward to showcase Rivera's talent. On a show that featured so much singing and dancing, she stood out with bold performances and songs that showed off her vocal skills.
i don’t want to make this just about glee and santana, but i wanted to share how talented and beautiful Naya Rivera is. her performing Valerie will always remain one of the best and my favourites on Glee. i’m praying so hard for you and your family Naya :( pic.twitter.com/tkdK3X0Eni
— alex ミ☆ (@dangerousbwoman) July 13, 2020
Fans also noted that no matter what, Rivera seemed to be having a great time, infusing her performances with fun and exuberance, even though recent news has revealed that the situation behind the scenes at Glee wasn't always so rosy.
— 𝐕𝐢𝐜𝐤𝐲||𝐅𝐚𝐧 𝐀𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 (@naturalnadine_) July 13, 2020
Other fans shared their connection with Rivera's portrayal of Lopez, who would become a symbol of LGBTQ+ visibility on primetime television. It was something that Rivera had mentioned in the past, saying that she knew that the character was important and special to so many viewers.
"I never thought that it would be that serious to some people, and it is," Rivera said of Santana and Brittany's relationship. "And a lot of people have said that [it] gave them courage to come out to their parents and their friends and their loved ones."
Naya Rivera was a mother, a friend, a captivating performer, actress, she inspired millions in an iconic Latin and the LGBTQ+ community. #RIPNayaRivera 🕊 Our prayers are with you today.
— Demi Charts (@demetriacharts) July 13, 2020
this though, this performance literally changed my life. it gave me a sense of what love is really like. naya rivera, thank you for having such raw and beautiful talent. ❤️ #nayariviera pic.twitter.com/AoDSq1lO7w
— q (@_dearwallflower) July 13, 2020
growing up, glee meant a lot to me because santana and brittany’s relationship was the first time that i had ever viewed LGBT representation in the media.
still, naya was more than a character and my heart aches for her family and friends. rip angel❤️ #NayaRivera pic.twitter.com/oSNE5E9prA
— S (@skettxr) July 13, 2020
Rivera would go on to say that fans embracing the two were part of why the show featured them so prominently. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Rivera said that the show's creators never intended for Brittney and Santana to become a central part of Glee.
"I think it was because the writers and Ryan [Murphy] were getting such a strong craving from the fans — from the Brittany and Santana fans — for them to be together," she said in 2011. "And we sort of took it lightly at first. But then we thought it was something people really wanted us to do, that it was something we should tackle. And so one day, [head writer] Brad Falchuk came up to me and said, 'We've decided that we're going to explore this story line,' and I was totally for it, and knew people would appreciate it."
naya rivera shaped the childhoods of so many people from our generation, including my own. she was one of the first examples of LGBTQ+, latina representation of U.S. television. she was a wonderful singer, person, and mother. her legacy will live on. pic.twitter.com/72goOXjLnB
— mary ミ☆ (@thescariestmary) July 13, 2020
#NayaRivera this is how I will remember you forever 💜 u gave me so much courage! You certainly were THE DEFINITION of a Girl On Fire! Thank you for allowing me to see myself in you, through your work! You helped me become me. #betterthantheoriginal
— Caleb Michael ミ☆4 Naya (@CalebMichael__) July 13, 2020
THIS was the scene that changed my life. Naya made it feel so real & genuine. I used to watch this on repeat as a young closeted lesbian so that I would feel less alone. I knew that if I came out, I would be disowned/kicked out. Thank you naya rivera. I love you. pic.twitter.com/4yS2udEYpY
— nadia ツ (@fineIinelesbian) July 13, 2020