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Naya Rivera: ‘Glee’ cast pay tribute to late co-star

The actress' body was discovered on Monday (13 July) following a six-day search at the California lake where she went missing.

By Will Stroude

The stars of Glee have been paying tribute to actress Naya Rivera, whose death was confirmed by police on Monday (13 July).

33-year-old Rivera, who was best known for her portrayal of lesbian cheerleader Santana Lopez on the hit musical TV series, was reported missing last Wednesday (8 July) after going swimming with her 4-year-old son during a boat trip on Lake Piru in southern California.

Following a six-day search, her body was discovered on Monday, as police revealed Rivera’s son Josey told them the actress had boosted him back onto the pair’s rented boat before disappearing under the water.

“She must have mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said at a news conference.

Monday’s tragic news prompted an outpouring of grief and tributes from fans and Rivera’s former Glee co-stars.

“She was so independent and strong and the idea of her not being here is something I cannot comprehend”, wrote actor Kevin McHale, who played Artie on the series.

“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 verbatim.”

He continued: “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.

“I’m thankful for the times I grew an ab muscle from laughing so hard at something she said.”

In a sad twist of fate, the discovery of Rivera’s body also came seven years to the day after the death of former Glee star Cory Monteith, who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2013 at the age of 31.

“I’m not religious by any means, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that Cory didn’t help find our girl today”, McHale added.

“These 2, in many ways, were the male and female versions of one another. So nice, cared deeply, were stupidly talented, the most fun, and really really good people.”

Chris Colfer, who played Glee’s Kurt Hummel, shared a picture of himself with Rivera on Instagram, writing that his former co-star’s “brilliance and humor were unmatched”.

“Her beauty and talent were otherworldly”, he went on. “She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness. 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.”

Alex Newell, who played trans student Unique, wrote on Instagram: “My heart is broken… I watched her preform with such power, brilliance, and honesty.. While being a light as a person! The love she had for her family and friends was always clear! She will truly be missed!”

Demi Lovato, who played Rivera’s onscreen girlfriend during season five of Glee, credited the actress with helping her come to terms with her own sexuality.

“RIP Naya Rivera. I’ll forever cherish the opportunity to play your girlfriend on Glee”, Lovato wrote. 

“The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted (at the time) queer girls like me, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world.

Darren Criss, who played Blaine Ansderson, wrote: “She was bold. She was outrageous. She was a LOT of fun. Naya made me laugh like no one else on that set.”

He added: She showed up for me on numerous occasions where she didn’t have to, and I was always so grateful for her friendship then, as I certainly am now.

“And even as I sit here, struggling to comprehend, gutted beyond description- the very thought of her cracks me up and still brings a smile to my face. That was Naya’s gift. And it’s a gift that will never go away.

“Rest in peace you wild, hilarious, beautiful angel.”

Jane Lynch, who played Sue Sylvester, wrote: “Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family.” 

Meanwhile, Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, who appeared on the series in a guest role as April Rhodes, wrote: “Thank you for what you gave the world. I love you.” 

Lauren Potter, who played Santana’s fellow cheerleader Becky Jackson, shared a picture of herself, Rivera and actress Heather Morris in character, writing simply: “Cheerios forvever.”