Naya Rivera’s tragic death has been confirmed, her ‘Glee’ costars reunited to pay their respects

"Naya was truly one of a kind."

It has sadly been confirmed by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department that Glee actress Naya Rivera died from drowning after her body was recovered from Lake Piru. She leaves behind a four-year-old son, who she had with her ex-husband, Ryan Dorsey. Rivera was a beloved fan-favourite on Glee, where she played the tenacious queer cheerleader Santana Lopez.

Rivera had been missing for five days since the 8th of July. The search for Rivera first began when her son was found sleeping alone on the boat in Lake Piru, Ventura County, about an hour away from their Los Angeles home. He was found wearing a life jacket, while an unused adult life jacket remained in the boat. Some details from the sheriff’s account of events suggest that Rivera may have used her final moments to save his life.

The searchers identified the areas Rivera and her son visited on the day by “looking at the shoreline features of the background of the FaceTime videos where she was chatting with family members while out on the lake.” The sheriff explained, “We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point during their journey.”

“It was during that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water.” The currents can be quite strong in the area they were in, which could indicate Rivera used the last of her strength to save her son.

As well as acting on Glee she was also a successful singer and author in her own right. The tragic loss is being felt by anyone who was a fan of Rivera’s work, not least of all the queer community. Many people credit Santana and Brittany’s friendship and queer romance, as crucial to accepting themselves when they were younger. Rivera created a complex, beautiful human out of a side character, eventually becoming a series regular and, along with co-star Heather Morris, turned the ‘Brittana’ ship into one of the Glee fandom’s biggest and most unsinkable.

Glee Naya rivera death tweet

The Glee cast reunited at the shore of Lake Piru, where Rivera’s body was found and linked hands to pay their respects. It’s such a heartbreaking image, especially with the knowledge that it was also the seventh anniversary of Cory Monteith’s death. Monteith played Finn Hudson on Glee and was also in a long-term relationship with Lea Michele, who played Rachel Berry.

As well as an outpouring of grief and messages of support from the Glee fandom, Rivera’s former co-stars have also shared their tributes to the late actress.

Lea Michele

Michele shared three black and white photos to her Instagram story, one of Monteith, one of Rivera and one of the Glee cast.

Cory Monteith tribute
Naya Rivera tribute
Glee tribute

Chris Colfer

Colfer wrote a touching post on Instagram for Rivera. “Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor,” he wrote. “Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be.”

Jenna Ushkowitz

Jenna Ushkowitz shared her own memories and tribute to Rivera saying, “You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors.”

Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale wrote a long post reminiscing about his and Rivera’s friendship. “She was the most talented person I’ve ever known. There is nothing she couldn’t do and I’m furious we won’t get to see more,” he captioned his post. “I’m thankful for all the ways in which she made me a better person. She taught me how to advocate for myself and to speak up for the things and people that were important to me, always.”

Darren Criss

Darren Criss posted a thread on Twitter and to Instagram, remembering his experiences with Naya fondly and saying, “I think she had more talent than we would have ever been able to see.”

Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch wrote a short tribute on Twitter for Rivera.

Naya Rivera dead tweet

Dianna Agron

Dianna Agron is a Glee face who’s kept things pretty lowkey over the years in terms of her sharing on social media. In a long Instagram caption, she fondly remembered their early days on the show together. “Naya and I fell into stride with such ease, she was my first friend and ally on our show. In the pilot, our characters came and went with such swiftness,” wrote Agron. 

“Our enthusiasm brimmed with all of the unknown. We tried to grasp what the other cast members must be feeling as we were working in such separate manners. We dared to dream. What if this show worked? Wouldn’t that be something?”

Amber Riley

Amber Riley posted a video of Naya and her son singing together, be warned it will make you cry. “My favorite duet partner. I love you. I miss you,” she wrote. “I don’t have words right now, just lots of feelings. Rest In Peace Angel, and know that your family will never have to worry about anything.”


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