May 16, 2021

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Demi Lovato says Naya Rivera’s Glee character was ‘groundbreaking for closeted queer girls’ like her as cast pays tribute

Demi Lovato joined the cast of Glee at the Glaad Media Awards to honour the “incredible” Naya Rivera.

Rivera died in July 2020 as a result of an accidental drowning while taking a boat out on Lake Piru in California with her four-year-old son Josey.

On Thursday (8 April), the cast of Glee paid tribute to the actor at the LGBTQ+ event, with the date marking the 10-year anniversary of her character Santana Lopez coming out on the show.

The segment was introduced by Lovato, who had a guest appearance on the musical-comedy series as Santana’s girlfriend.

“I will always cherish the chance I got to play Naya’s girlfriend, Dani, on Glee,” Lovato said, describing Rivera’s character as “groundbreaking for closeted queer girls, like I was at the time”.

She added: “Her ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world.”

The show’s cast, including Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Amber Riley, Heather Morris, Darren Criss, Harry Shum Jr, Lauren Potter, Becca Tobin, Alex Newell, Dot Marie Jones, Jessalyn Gilsig and Vanessa Lengies then appeared on Zoom to share their favourite memories of the “talented” Rivera.

“I remember when Naya became a regular cast member,” Lynch recalled. “She was a dancer and I always thought she was cute… and then Ryan [Murphy] started giving her lines and I was like, ‘Wow, this girl is really something.’”

McHale said: “When Naya passed and all these messages came in over social media, [they] were all the same. She would treat you how she treated me, someone that she knew and saw every single day, how she’d treat her family.”

Ushkowitz said that Rivera’s best role was “being a mom”.

A statement from Rivera’s own mother Yolanda Previtire read: “[Naya’s] desire was to always be an advocate to those who did not have a voice… I am grateful that my eldest daughter helped to change the landscape of how we view and see each other. Thank you to Glaad for keeping my daughter’s legacy alive.”