Naya Rivera Dead at 33: Remembering the Glee Star's Life in Pictures

From kid actress to award-winning Glee performer and doting mom, relive the late star's impressive career and personal life

By Allison Crist 13 Jul, 2020 9:27 PMTags
Related: Naya Rivera Dead at Age 33

Naya Rivera has tragically died at 33 years old. 

The actress and singer was confirmed dead on Monday, July 13. The news comes five days after she was declared missing by Ventura, Calif. authorities. On Wednesday, July 8, her 4-year-old son was found alone on a boat in the middle of Lake Piru.

Rivera's body was discovered floating at the surface of the lake by personnel searching by boat early Monday morning, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub shared during a press conference.

As a search-and-rescue operation ensued last week, Rivera's fans, friends and former Glee co-stars—from Heather Morris to Demi Lovatosent prayers and messages of hope. However, those optimistic posts across social media have since turned mournful. 

Rivera is survived by her parents, younger brother and her son, Josey Dorsey, who her final social media post was dedicated to.

Growing up in the Los Angeles area, Rivera first began acting as a child, eventually making guest appearances on shows like Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Her breakthrough role came in 2009 when she was cast as Santana Lopez on Glee, which she starred on until 2015. The show has unfortunately been touched by tragedy before. In 2013, Cory Monteith suffered a fatal overdose, and five years later Mark Salling died by suicide.

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Two years prior to the end of Glee, Rivera jumpstarted her music career by releasing her debut single, "Sorry," with then-fiancé Big Sean. The pair split in 2014, but the rapper showed his support for his ex when news about her disappearance emerged early Thursday morning.

The same year Rivera broke off her engagement, she went on to marry actor Ryan Dorsey. They welcomed their son in Sept. 2015, but divorced after two years of marriage.

Rivera has documented many sweet memories of her and Ryan's son over the years, from birthdays and holidays to quieter, more intimate moments.

While raising Josey, Rivera also maintained her career as an actress. Her last project was Step Up: High Water, which started on YouTube and was recently picked up for a second season by Starz.

Celebrate Rivera's life and legacy by scrolling through the photo gallery below.

Family Matters

Naya appears on Family Matters' Feb. 12, 1993 episode alongside star Jaleel White in one of her early acting jobs.

Big Break

Rivera became a household name when she got her big break starring as cheerleader Santana on the award-winning Fox series Glee, which premiered in 2009.

"Sectionals"

Naya appears in the season one fall finale episode "Sectionals" alongside co-stars Dijon Talton, Cory Monteith, Harry Shum Jr., Mark Salling, Heather Morris, Amber Riley, Matthew Morrison, Jenna Ushkowitz, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Dianna Agron.

Shining Starlets

Agron as Quinn Fabray and Rivera as Santana in an early episode of Glee.

Fashionista

The young star arrives to the American Idol Top 12 Party in a colorful mini dress.

Party Pals

Rivera and Morris reunite at a 2010 Golden Globes party.

SAG Award Winners

The Glee cast poses backstage at the 2010 Screen Actors Guild Awards after winning Best TV Comedy Ensemble.

BFFs

Rivera and Agron are all smiles at the Fox and InStyle Golden Globes party in 2010.

Golden Girls

Naya and Jenna share a giant hug as they attend the 2011 Golden Globes Awards with their cast in Beverly Hills.

Red Carpet Reunion

Naya is equally excited to share the special moment with Glee creator Ryan Murphy the same year at the Globes.

Tour Buddie

Rivera and Monteith stop for a photo op at a Glee! Live event in San Jose in 2011.

Glam Goddesses

Riley and Rivera are glam goddesses at the 2012 SAG Awards in L.A.

Latin Pride

Rivera accepts the Favorite TV Actress Comedy award during the 2012 NCLR ALMA Awards in Pasadena.

New Couple Alert

Rivera and Big Sean made their red carpet debut as a couple at the 42 premiere on April 9, 2013 and dated for about two years before eventually calling off their engagement in April 2014.

Former Flame

Here, the duo celebrates the rapper's birthday at Wolfgang Puck in Beverly Hills in 2013 several months before he popped the question.

From TV to Big Screen

The actress appears in the 2014 film At the Devil's Door.

Telenovela Times

Rivera plays Blanca Alvarez during her 2015 guest-starring arc on Lifetime's Devious Maids.

Timeless Beauty

Rivera poses for a portrait while promoting her book Sorry Not Sorry in 2016.

"Mad" Talented

Naya co-stars with Chanel Iman in the 2017 film Mad Families.

Surprise Wedding

Rivera secretly tied the knot with Ryan Dorsey in a small and intimate ceremony in Cabo San Lucas in July 2014. They filed for divorce just two years later.

Mommy Moments

Rivera and Dorsey welcomed son Josey Hollis Dorsey in September 2015. Here, the mother-son duo are all smiles at The Lego Movie 2 premiere in L.A. in 2019.

Dancing Diva

From 2018 to 2020, Rivera starred as Collette Jones on the YouTube Red drama/dance series Step Up: High Water.

Famous Friends

Naya acts alongside Ne-Yo in an episode of Step Up: High Water.

Happy Family

Naya and Josey pose for an Instagram pic in March 2020. "Always bringing the [sunshine]," actress wrote.

For more updates about the actress, click here.