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Naya Rivera may be gone, but she will never be forgotten, as her former Glee cast mates reunited at the GLAAD Awards to pay tribute to her, almost one year after her tragic drowning.
Some of the former Glee stars who paid their respects on Zoom by sharing some of their favorite memories of the late actress included Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch, Amber Riley, Heather Morris, Darren Criss, Chris Colfer, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Harry Shum Jr., Lauren Potter, Becca Tobin, and Alex Newell, among others.
Demi Lovato introduced the Glee cast with her own personal message as well, noting how she grew close to Naya between 2013 and 2014 while she was playing her character Santana Lopez’s girlfriend, Dani.
She also praised Naya and her character for helping closeted young girls accept their sexuality…
“I will always cherish the chance I got to play Naya’s girlfriend, Dani, on Glee,” Demi’s introduction began.
Santana was “groundbreaking for closeted queer girls, like I was at the time.
“Her ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world.”
Naya Rivera’s involvement and influence over the LGBTQ community was something that many of her former co-stars touched upon during their emotional tributes…
“As an ally, Naya was so honored to represent them,” Heather Morris, who played Santana Lopez’s friend and then girlfriend, Brittany Pearce, said.
“Things are getting better, because every year there is more LGBTQ representation on TV and more diverse representation, which leads to more acceptance and more kindness,” Jane Lynch – who played coach Sue Sylvester on the show – said.
Jane Lynch also noted how Naya Rivera was initially brought on as a dancer, but producer Ryan Murphy – and the rest of the cast, crew, and fans – noticed something truly special when her character really started developing…
“She was a great dancer, and then Ryan Murphy started giving her lines, and I was like, ‘Wow this girl is really something’,” she added
Although Santana Lopez was a role she will always be remembered for, many of the Glee cast stated that her greatest role was always as a mother…
“Naya and I were good friends on the show, but I think we became much better friends when we both had children,” said Matthew Morrison, who played teacher Will Schuester, referencing her five-year-old son Josey Dorsey.
“And to see her put all that energy into her son was just an incredible sight to see and something I’ll always remember.”
Jenna Ushkowitz also echoed this, adding that her “best role” was being a mother…
“Her best role was her being a mom. That was the most fulfilling to see her do that,” Jenna recalled, before commenting on her sense of humor and her ability to make everyone laugh…
“She made everybody laugh, on screen and off, but the real win was if you made her laugh, because you knew you actually did something really funny.”
The tribute ended with a statement from Naya’s mother, Yolanda Previtire, who thanked GLAAD for “keeping my daughter’s legacy alive”.
“Naya would be honored to receive this recognition,” the written statement began.
“When Naya was told that Santana would be a lesbian she called me to let me know and I asked her how did she feel about that and she said ‘I feel great about it!’ Little did we know that she would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community.
“Her desire was to always be an advocate for those who did not have a voice. I don’t believe she realized how important she was to this world.
“I am grateful that my eldest daughter helped to change the landscape of how we view and see each other.”
What a touching and emotional tribute. RIP Naya Rivera… you will never be forgotten!