Today is a sad day for those mourning the loss of Prince Phillip, 99, and rapper DMX, 50. Almost a year ago the world lost Naya Rivera at the young age of 33 and the world continues to celebrate and honor her life. Last night at the GLAAD Media Awards, which Rivera hosted twice, the cast of Glee- and Demi Lovato paid tribute to Rivera and her character “Santana,” who was introduced to the world 10 years ago. Lovato was once a guest star on the show, playing Santana’s Girlfriend “Dani,” the singer said losing her friend Naya was one of the most heartbreaking things to happen to her.
Joining virtually, Lovato said, “I will always cherish the chance I got to play the Naya’s girlfriend Dani on Glee.” The character Naya played, she explained, was ”groundbreaking for closeted queer girls, like I was at the time, and her ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world. That’s the power of a show like glee and LGBTQ youth, you have power too.”
She then introduced the cast of Glee who was seeing each other virtually for the first time a while. The cast each spoke about Rivera and reflected on what they remember most, like her kindness, talent, and sense of humor. Jane Lynch, who played “Sue Sylvester,” says, “I remember when Naya became a regular cast member she was a dancer, and I always thought she was cute and she was a great dancer and then Brian started giving her lines and I was like wow… this girl is really something.” Jenna Ushkowitz remembered her humor saying, “she made everybody laugh like on-screen and off but the real win was if you made her laugh because you know you actually did something really funny.” She later added, “her best role was being a mom, that was the most fulfilling to see her do that.”
At the time, Glee was one of the only shows with LGTBQ+ characters and Santana provided much-needed representation on screen. A written statement from Rivera‘s mother Yolanda Previtire was included in the broadcast that read, “Naya would be honored to receive this recognition. 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!’” She continued, “Little did we know that she would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community.” Her desire was to always be an advocate for those who did not have a voice. 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.”
The special tribute included Lynch, Ushkowitz, Jacob Artist, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Jessalyn Gilsig, Dot Marie-Jones, Vanessa Lengies, Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Alex Newell, Lauren Potter, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., and Becca Tobin. Watch the heartwarming video below, and get your tissues ready.
Here’s Rivera’s full performance of “Nutbush City Limits” that the cast is talking about where many saw her perform live for the first time.