The Glee cast reunited at the GLAAD Media Awards on Thursday to honor their co-star and friend, Naya Rivera. The reunion came as part of a special tribute to Rivera's character, Santana Lopez, coming out as gay on Glee 10 years ago. Rivera died in July 2020 after she accidentally drowned during a boating trip at Lake Piru, California, with her son, Josey Dorsey, 5. The actress was 33.
Singer Demi Lovato introduced the Glee cast, opening up about the "heartbreak" she felt after the death of her friend. "I will always cherish the chance I got to play Naya's girlfriend, Dani, on Glee," Lovato said Thursday, reports E! News. The singer noted that Rivera's character was "groundbreaking for closeted queer girls like I was at the time." Santana Lopez's "ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world," Lovato said.
Following Lovato's remarks, 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 others joined the ceremony virtually from their homes. Morris said Rivera's death hit them all "so incredibly hard," while Criss noted there "was always so much more than meets the eye with Naya." Lynch and Newell both praised Rivvera's skills, while Morrison remembered Rivera's 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," Morrison recalled. "And to see her put all that energy into her son was just an incredible sight to see and something I'll always remember." Ushkowitz said Rivera's "best role" was being a mom. " That was the most fulfilling to see her do that," Ushkowitz said before noting how funny Rivera was. "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."
At the end of the tribute, GLAAD shared a written statement from Rivera's mother, Yolanda Previtire, who could not attend. "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!'" Previtire wrote, notes Deadline.
“Little did we know that she would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community,” Previtire continued. “Her desire was to always be an advocate to those who did not have a voice. I don’t believe that 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. Thank you GLAAD for keeping my daughter’s legacy alive.”