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Remembering Naya Rivera: 6 Things you didn't know about the lovable star

Remembering Naya Rivera: 6 Things you didn't know about the lovable star

Gone but not forgotten

Text: Marissa Chin


Image: Getty Images

Did you know the late Naya Rivera actually auditioned for American Idol?

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff Office reported that they discovered a body and have identified it as that of Naya Rivera. This heartbreaking news comes just under a week since the actress was first reported missing on July 8.

During the news conference, Ventura County Sheriff Willliam Ayub revealed that Rivera’s body was found near the surface of the water in the northeastern portion of the lake—waters in that area can go as deep between 35 and 60 feet.

According to details recounted by Josey, Sheriff Ayub also shared that while swimming in the lake with his mother, Josey was boosted onto the boat before turning back and witnessed his mother going under the water. “She mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself,” Ayub said.

The rented boat was also not anchored and drifted which meant that both mother and son had to swim a further distance to get to it. According to authorities, the most likely scenario was that Rivera used the last of her strength to save her four-year-old son before drowning. She was only 33.

Naya Rivera was many things: a talented actress, singer, dancer, loving mother and much more. Ahead, we remember the all-rounded star’s brilliance and talent with these wonderful facts about her life.

Naya Rivera started out as a child actor

We all know Naya Rivera for her role as Santana Lopez in Glee which catapulted her to super stardom but did you know she was actually in the showbiz game since she was a kid? Rivera began her career as a child actor and model, appearing in a variety of TV adverts, commercials before joining the sitcom, The Royal Family, at the bright young age of four. Check out baby Naya in the clip above.

She auditioned for American Idol and Glee with the same song

Naya Rivera and future Glee co-star Amber Riley (who played Mercedes) actually auditioned for the singing competition show American Idol before their stunt on Glee. She chose the groovy ‘90s disco track ‘Emotion’ by The Bee Gees for both auditions. While she didn’t get the golden ticket to Hollywood in American Idol, the same track nailed her the role of Santana Lopez in Glee.

Rivera was going to give up acting before Glee’s audition

Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez on Glee

It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that Naya Rivera was ready to give up acting before attending her audition for Glee. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, she revealed that things weren’t working out and was going to ditch the acting life for a “real job” before her mother told her to give it another six months. In hindsight, that was excellent advice from Mama Rivera because we wouldn’t know who would play Santana as perfectly as Rivera did.

She released a single with ex-beau Big Sean

Rivera amassed a huge fan following from Glee who were desperate to hear her pipes on songs beyond covers (albeit some darn good ones!). Their dreams came true when the singer-actress signed onto Columbia Records in 2011 and released a digital single titled ‘Sorry’ featuring her then-boyfriend Big Sean.

Her role as Santana was an inspiration to many LGBT women

In Glee, Santana Lopez was more than just your average acid-tongued cheerleader: she was an LGBT TV trailblazer. Bear in mind, the relationship between Brittany and Santana were only explored in season two of the show which was ten years ago—a time where LGBT narratives (especially ones of POC) were hardly represented on mainstream television. Santana’s portrayal of a strong female LGBT character empowered and comforted many around the world grappling with their own sexuality.

Glee Brittany and Satana LGBT representation
Brittany and Santana's wedding in Season 6 of Glee

While Rivera never identified as LGBT herself, she knew the importance of portraying such an important role. During Comic Con 2011, Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk revealed writers initially wanted to treat the Santana-Brittany romance as a “goof” for comedic relief but Rivera shut that idea down and championed for the same-sex relationship to be treated with more seriousness. “It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives,” Rivera told E! News. “So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that.”

She treasured her role as a mother more than anything else

View this post on Instagram

just the two of us

A post shared by Naya Rivera (@nayarivera) on

It’s no secret that Naya Rivera shared an exceptionally close bond with her son, Josey, and would regularly post fun moments with him on social media. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Rivera shared, “I'm a mom now, and what I love more than acting is being Josey's mom.” Her last Instagram post was of a sweet close-up kiss between her and Josey with the caption, “Just the two of us”.

Glee cast reactions 

Many of her former Glee cast mates have also taken the time to remember Rivera’s life and legacy on their social media:

View this post on Instagram

There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don't believe I'll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel but... Naya, you were a force and everyone who got to be around you knew it and felt the light and joy you exuded when you walked into a room. You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors. I was lucky enough to share so many laughs, martinis and secrets with you. I can not believe I took for granted that you'd always be here. Our friendship went in waves as life happens and we grow, so I will not look back and regret but know I love you and promise to help the legacy of your talent, humor, light and loyalty live on. You are so loved. You deserved the world and we will make sure Josey and your family feel that everyday. I miss you already.

A post shared by Jenna Ushkowitz (@jennaushkowitz) on

July 13 is also another exceptionally harrowing day for the Glee cast as today marks the seven-year anniversary of Cory Monteith’s death (he played the role of Finn Hudson), who died of a drug overdose in 2013. The cast reunited on Lake Piru where Naya Rivera first went missing.

Glee cast reunited at Lake Piru where Naya Rivera went missing

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