Tributes have poured in for Naya Rivera.
The 33-year-old actress, who was best known for her iconic role as Santana Lopez on Ryan Murphy’s musical comedy series Glee, went missing last week after renting a pontoon boat on Lake Piru, California, with her four-year-old son, Josey.
Her son was found alone in the boat with his lifejacket on. Josey told authorities that he and Rivera went swimming and that “his mum never made it out of the water.”
On Monday (13 July), after five days of searching, the Ventura County Police department recovered Rivera’s body.
In a press conference, Sheriff Bill Ayub said: “We believe it was mid-afternoon when she disappeared. The idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting, it was unanchored, and that she mustered enough energy to get her son back into the boat, but not enough to save herself.”
“Her brilliance and humor were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly. She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness,” wrote Glee star Chris Colfer.
“She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be.”
Kevin McHale also wrote: “She was the single most quick-witted person I’ve ever met, with a steel-trap memory that could recall the most forgettable conversations from a decade ago. She was the most talented person I’ve ever known and I’m furious we won’t get to see more.”
Glee fans took to social media to share how Rivera’s character, Santana, helped them come to terms with their sexuality.
“Glee’s lgbt representation was what made me accept myself,” wrote one fan. “Naya Rivera did what years of self assurance couldn’t, and i probably wouldn’t have been out and proud if it wasn’t for her.”
Another tweeted: “As a young queer Latina myself watching her fighting and supporting the lgbt community saved my life, I felt seen, the way she portrayed and fought for Santana Lopez impacted me.”
Rivera received critical acclaim for her performance as Santana, and the character’s same-sex romance with fellow cheerleader Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris) is one of the most beloved LGBTQ+ relationships in television history.
You were my my greatest source of comfort and solace, and you gave me the space to live proudly & truthfully. You showed me that my life would one day be filled with big, real love, & it was through you I realized my sexuality was something to be celebrated. Thank you Naya. pic.twitter.com/sTd5AV3nKf
— ZOLITA (@zolitaofficial) July 14, 2020
Glee has a cult following because it was THE show in the 2010’s that sought to represent as many demographics as possible. Naya Rivera’s character to this day stands with limited company as a Lantinx queer woman on prime time television. Please keep her family in your thoughts pic.twitter.com/5gQqJiCFnS
— Alec Jay Melger (@AlecJayM) July 14, 2020
I seen tons of stories about how Naya Rivera helped many lives so here is mine, as a young queer Latina myself watching her fighting and supporting the lgbt community saved my life, I felt seen, the way she portrayed and fought for Santana Lopez impacted me, Thank You Naya. pic.twitter.com/a7bq4SDZ9E
— Manoban™ (@Miss_Ferny) July 14, 2020
naya rivera’s portrayal of santana on glee is the reason why i was able to figure out i’m a lesbian and be comfortable with myself. i will forever be grateful for her for that. she was such an incredible person and i’m sending love to her friends and family. #RIPNayaRivera pic.twitter.com/8g8Dxt5LsQ
— alex (@loventhunders) July 14, 2020
rest in peace, u beautiful and talented angel. u inspired me and helped me live out my truth and u gave us a voice when we needed it most. u r an inspiration to so many people especially the queer community. thank u, we love u #nayarivera ❤️ pic.twitter.com/rr7eS6FCAH
— boop (@bboopbadoop) July 14, 2020
So heartbreaking. I grew up watching glee and Santana’s character was really someone who inspired me and many more LGBTQ+ memebers to come out to their loved ones specially in the Latino community. She will forever be loved. Love you Naya🖤 #nayariviera #NayaRivera #glee pic.twitter.com/0sZuc8nN9N
— reptaytion | 💛💛 (@TTaylorswiift1_) July 14, 2020
I just can't believe that one of the actresses that I grow up with,show me that it was okay to be different and taught me how to accept the difference in my life it's gone and the fact that she put her son first than herself show's how amazing person she is #NayaRivera
— it's_maria_ll (@itsmaria_ll) July 14, 2020
In high school, I desperately grasped for anything that could help me understand who I was and what my feelings meant. Santana Lopez gave me something to hold onto, tightly. It is no exaggeration to say Naya Rivera changed my life. pic.twitter.com/H3Jg78xW0y
— whembley (@whembleysewell) July 9, 2020
— Avejoia (@avejoia) July 14, 2020
She didnt deserve this end, glee meant so much to me an she made me feel very strong in my sexuality after watching how she was ashamed anthen embraced it played a BIG part in my life I know it's just a show but it was so much bigger than that r.i.p #NayaRivera https://t.co/K6rR6I3O4Z
— Misschessxox (@misschessxox) July 14, 2020
Crying over someone I’ve never met but I feel so heartbroken. She was a beautiful soul. I cannot begin to describe the impact that Naya Rivera has had on my life. Through her portrayal of Santana, I was able to accept myself for who I am.
Rest in Peace, Naya Rivera. 1987-2020. pic.twitter.com/bsh7wTMb0p
— kkyle. (@qyleeeei) July 14, 2020
This gifset of Naya was from 8 years ago.
Naya Rivera literally said gay rights during a time in television where queer women loving queer women on TV was so rare. pic.twitter.com/xTevhcHyRZ
— Cheska b (@lazycheskie) July 14, 2020