In a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter, Glee’s creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan praised Rivera's performance as the show's Black and Latinx lesbian high schooler Santana Lopez, and what she meant to them and people around the world. In light of the tragic news, the three added that they “are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all."
“Naya wasn't a series regular when we cast her on Glee,” they wrote. “She didn't have more than a few lines in the pilot. But it didn't take more than an episode or two for us to realise that we had lucked into finding one of the most talented, special stars we would ever have the pleasure of working with.”
The trio praised Rivera for her ability to “nail a joke as well as she could crush you with an emotional scene” and her “numerous iconic Glee musical performances,” including an Adele mashup, “Valerie,” “Songbird” and a tribute to co-star and friend Cory Monteith on the show with “If I Die Young."
But, above all, her “greatest Glee legacy” was “the humour and humanity that she brought to Santana’s relationship with her best friend and eventual girlfriend [and later] wife Brittany (played by [close friend] Heather Morris).”
"It was one of the first times an openly lesbian, high school relationship was seen on network television and Naya understood what 'Brittana' meant to the many young women who were seeing themselves represented on television for the first time," they continued. "Naya always made sure that Santana's love for Brittany was expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions.”
“Naya was always moved by the girls who reached out to her to tell her how much Santana and Brittany's love affected them. Naya's obligation to them—and to all of her fans—was obvious. She had the rare combination of humility and endless confidence in her talent."
And if there’s one thing that’s a known fact about Glee, it’s that the show would not have ever been the same if it weren’t for Naya Rivera and Amber Riley’s duets.
Last week, Rivera was reported missing and presumed dead after her son was found alone on a boat. After a week-long search, officials confirmed yesterday that she had tragically passed away, just days away from the seventh anniversary of Glee co-star Cory Monteith’s passing.
Rest in peace, Naya. You were a true icon and an amazing person who's music and performance on Glee changed all of our lives for the better.