December 10, 2023

Today, the world continues to mourn the death of actress Naya Rivera. Rivera is best known for her role on GLEE as one of the trailblazing characters on TV, Santana Lopez, where she played a lesbian latinx; pushing LGBTQ+ representation in a time where there wasn’t a lot. Her body was found on July 13th, 2020 in Ventura County, California but many of her fans, family and friends had been in deep despair from July 8th, 2020, when news of her disappearance was first reported. 

Naya Rivera as Hillary Winston in The Royal Family

Naya’s career began at the age of 4 when she starred in The Royal Family as Hillary Winston, which gained her a nomination for the Young Artist Award from a non-profit organization called Young Artist Foundation. After the sitcom’s cancellation, her career propelled forwarded as she was cast in small roles for many hit TV shows between 1992 and 2002 like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Smart Guy, and Even Steven, as well as a guest appearance on The Bernie Mac Show and a music video cameo in B2K’s “Why I Love You.” As she began to audition for more roles, she worked as telemarketer, nanny and greeter at Abercrombie & Fitch until her breakthrough in 2009.

Naya Rivera as Kelly in Smart Guy

In 2009, Naya was cast as Santana Lopez, a high school cheerleader, in Fox’s historic show GLEE. She began as a recurring character but was later promoted to a regular as her popularity began to grow. Her performance as Santana received a great amount of critical praise as the character took on the role of a mean-girl who later begins to struggle with her sexuality and grows into a likable and favorable person. Rivera garnished many nominations and considerations, as well as honors from major networks, like E! News and more. As of 2018, Naya took on the role as a school administrator named Collette Jones in YouTube Red’s Step Up: High Water. After two seasons, the show was moved to Starz where the third season would take place, with Naya retaining her role. 

Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez in GLEE

During her career, she graced the covers of magazines like Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, and Complex. Her career is something that displays true dedication, hard work, and resilience to make a name for oneself. 

Naya Rivera and her son, Josey

On July 8th, 2020, Rivera and her son visited Lake Piru, in Ventura County, California. After not returning the boat rental in time, County police were called and Rivera’s son was found in the boat sleeping alone with a life-jacket on. It is believed that while the boat was docked, it began to drift away from them while they were in the water and, with all her strength, she was able to save her son but not herself. During the search, her GLEE co-stars, ex-husband, and parents joined the effort for Naya as the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department presumed she was dead on July 9th. The Ventura County police used sonar radars, sniffer dogs and divers during their search.

Naya Rivera’s body was found in the northeastern part of the lake on July 13th, 2020 at around 9 A.M. According to locals, Lake Piru is notorious for random currents, strong whirlpools, and strong winds. They have been fighting for signs to be placed at the lake. Naya is survived by her 4 year old son, Josey, as well as her parents, Yolanda and George Rivera. Fans and friends began to tweet their condolences.

Hason is a Senior at Eastern Connecticut State University studying Communications and Political Science. follow him on Twitter: @sawwny & Instagram: @sawnyy

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