Glee Cast Reunites After "Heartbreak" to Honor Naya Rivera at the GLAAD Media Awards

The Glee cast, including guest star Demi Lovato, came together to pay tribute to Naya Rivera at the GLAAD Media Awards. Demi praised her character as "groundbreaking for closeted queer girls."

By Lindsay Weinberg Apr 09, 2021 1:26 AMTags
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The Glee cast reunited to honor the late Naya Rivera as an "incredible" friend and mother at the GLAAD Media Awards on Thursday, April 8.

The event, which recognizes shows with accurate and inclusive representations of the LGBTQ community, paid tribute to Naya 10 years after her character, Santana Lopez, came out on Glee.

Matthew Morrison, Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Amber Riley, Heather Morris, Darren Criss, Harry Shum Jr., Lauren Potter, Becca Tobin, Alex Newell and more stars from the cast Zoomed together to share their favorite memories of Naya. The actress died at age 33 last summer after she accidentally drowned during a boating trip with her son, Josey Dorsey, now 5.

Superstar Demi Lovato was on hand to introduce the cast, which she was a part of from 2013 to 2014 to play Santana's girlfriend, Dani. Demi said she experienced a "heartbreak" after "losing my friend" last July.

The Dancing with the Devil singer said, "I will always cherish the chance I got to play Naya's girlfriend, Dani, on Glee." She said Naya's character was "groundbreaking for closeted queer girls, like I was at the time," adding, "Her ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world."

Naya Rivera: Life in Pictures

After the rest of the cast appeared virtually, Heather shared that Naya's death hit them "so incredibly hard." 

Darren said, "There was always just so much more than met the eye with Naya." 


Jane recalled seeing her rise from dancer to regular cast member on the show, saying, "She was a great dancer, and then Ryan [Murphy] started giving her lines, and I was like, ‘Wow this girl is really something.'" 

Alex praised Naya's talents on set, saying that their reactions to watching her perform often didn't require acting. "I was just so floored by the power and prowess that she had," the star recounted.

But Matthew, who played teacher Mr. Schue, admired her most for her love for her son. "Naya and I were good friends on the show, but I think we became much better friends when we both had children," he shared. "And to see her put all that energy into her son was just an incredible sight to see and something I'll always remember." 

Jenna added, "Her best role was her being a mom. That was the most fulfilling to see her do that." The 1 Night in San Diego actress also remembered her for her sense of humor: "She made everybody laugh, on screen and off, but the real win was if you made her laugh, because you knew you actually did something really funny." 

The cast went on to speak about Santana's influence on the LGBTQ community, with Heather saying, "As an ally, Naya was so honored to represent them."


Jane noted, "Things are getting better, because every year there is more LGBTQ representation on TV and more diverse representation, which leads to more acceptance and more kindness." As Darren put it, "We are so very proud to be part of that trajectory, and we're very proud to honor our incredible friend, Naya Rivera, tonight." 

The tribute ended with a written statement from Naya's mother, Yolanda Previtire, who wasn't able to attend virtually. 

It 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!' Little did we know that she would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community."

The note continued, "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."

Yolanda then thanked GLAAD for "keeping my daughter's legacy alive."