A Tribute to Naya Rivera

This article was originally published on July 25, 2020.

Though Naya Rivera tragically passed away on July 8, her memories and legacy will live on for years to come. Ms. Rivera has had a complicated past, but she was an inspiring role model for people of color in the LGBTQ+ community. She portrayed the character Santana Lopez, a lesbian, on the hit series, “Glee.” This popular television show was about high schoolers with a passion for music. She provided representation for those who identify as LGBTQ+, showing them that they are not alone.

Ms. Rivera was born on January 12, 1987. She appeared on the show, “The Royal Family,” when she was just four-years-old and was beloved by countless fans. However, she claims that once she got older, the pool of acting jobs ran dry, as she was too old to be considered cute, but too young to be a “hot teenager.” When she was a preteen, she saw the popular kids trying to lose weight in an unhealthy way. As many young adults are, she was influenced by them to develop an eating disorder. When she eventually summoned the courage to tell her parents that she was suffering through this, they didn’t know what to say or do. Not fully understanding the severity of her situation, they passed it off. She was starving herself and, as Delish writes, “It wasn’t until she passed out in gym class—she was dehydrated, weighing just 98 pounds at 5 feet, 4 inches tall—that she was rushed to the hospital and her dad made her see a psychiatrist to work out her issues with eating.” Though the psychiatrist was not much help to Ms. Rivera, she eventually got healthier thanks to her new group of friends who were more accepting of different body types. With the good influence of these friends, she completely changed and never looked back.

Beyond battling an eating disorder, Ms. Rivera also got plastic surgery and stated that she told many of her teachers about this with joy. She claims that she is proud of her breast enhancement, being very open about this subject in the memoir she later wrote. She claims that although many have a wide range of opinions on plastic surgery, her decision has made her incredibly happy, even years after. The surgery was solely about helping boost her own self-confidence.

Once Ms. Rivera starred on “Glee,” she began dating. She went out with Ryan Dorsey, another popular actor, in 2010. She was dating him while playing the role of Santana Lopez in “Glee,” and she broke up with him in order to prioritize her acting career. Later, she found out that she was pregnant with Mr. Dorsey’s baby, causing her to go through an abortion. Ms. Rivera states in her memoir, “Abortion will always be a very controversial subject, and I thought a lot about whether I wanted to share my story in this book. I know that I’ll be judged for it, and that no matter how hard I try to explain how I felt and my reasons for doing it, a lot of people won’t understand. I ultimately decided I wanted to share it because I’m not the only one with this experience. Approximately three in ten women in the United States will have an abortion by the time they are forty-five. Yet a lot of those women will go through it alone, or at least thinking they’re alone.” Ms. Rivera didn’t tell Mr. Dorsey of her abortion until a few years later. Fortunately, to Ms. Rivera’s surprise, Mr. Dorsey received this information very well.

After a few other serious relationships, she decided to give her relationship with Mr. Dorsey another try. They later got married and after some time, she revealed that she was pregnant with his baby again. This time, she kept the child, a beautiful baby boy, and the two raised him together. Though they cared for each other, the two split up a few times and finally divorced in June of 2018, putting their main attention toward their son. The magazine People writes, “And all the challenges that came along with new motherhood were completely worth it for the star. ‘The love I get from him. Little things like the two kisses he stood up and gave me last night to say thank you for making him mac and cheese from scratch,’ she said. ‘It’s a love never found anywhere or with anyone else.’” Ms. Rivera was incredibly close to her son, Josey, and she sincerely loved being a mother.

In 2016, Ms. Rivera published her memoir, “Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up,” which shed light on her thoughts about others, past relationships, plastic surgery, abortion, her experience on “Glee,” and other things she encountered in life. Ms. Rivera was very candid and open about her life and things she believed about others. She wasn’t scared to state her opinions on people she disliked; she wrote in her memoir, “I don’t trust people who claim to like everyone, because, really, how is that possible? If that is true, then you must not have any standards. If you care about your life, then there are going to be certain people you don’t want in it.” Ms. Rivera was a truthful and strong person, willing to admit her true feelings whether or not they would be well received by others.

On July 8, after Ms. Rivera took her son to Lake Piru to rent a boat, she was seen as missing. Her rental boat time had run-up, and a search began to find her. When they reached her rental boat, only her son was inside, an extra life jacket found next to him. She had been proclaimed as lost, people searching the lake to find her. Soon after, her body was found, and it has been shown that Ms. Rivera was swept out by the lake, but before she died, she saved her son by pushing him onto the boat.

Though many have had mixed opinions on Ms. Rivera due to past scandals with loved ones and co-stars, she has proven that she is willing to do anything for the ones she loves with all her heart even if it means sacrificing her life. We all are mourning the incredibly tragic death of Naya Rivera, who passed at the young age of 33. No matter anyone’s opinions on her, we all can agree that she was a pioneer for the representation of LGBTQ+ people of color on television and will be remembered for all of her work in many productions. Her talent was undeniable and her outspokenness and truth will be greatly missed. She wrote in her memoir, “Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well.” We hope your graceful wings will take you to many more beautiful places in the skies, Ms. Rivera; rest in peace.