Naya Rivera, who rose to fame on TV show ‘Glee,’ dies

Antelope Valley Press - - WEATHER / OBITUARIES - By MARK KENNEDY AP En­ter­tain­ment Writer

NEW YORK — Naya Rivera, a singer and ac­tor who played a gay cheer­leader on the hit TV mu­si­cal com­edy “Glee,” was found dead Mon­day in a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia lake. She was 33.

Rivera’s body was dis­cov­ered five days af­ter she dis­ap­peared on Lake Piru, where her son, Josey, was found July 8 alone on a boat the two had rented, the Ven­tura County Sher­iff’s Of­fice said. The Sher­iff’s Of­fice con­firmed that the body was Rivera’s.

“Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were,” wrote “Glee” co-star Jane Lynch on Twitter. Steven Canals, who co-cre­ated and pro­duced the FX tele­vi­sion show “Pose,” tweeted that he was “heart­bro­ken over all the sto­ries that will re­main un­told.”

Vi­ola Davis sent her prayers to Rivera’s fam­ily and Kristin Chenoweth said: “Thank you for what you gave the world.” Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez said that “as a Latina, it’s rare to have a rich, com­plex char­ac­ters re­flect us in me­dia.”

Rivera be­gan act­ing at a young age, but she rose to na­tional at­ten­tion play­ing a les­bian teen on “Glee,” which aired from 2009 un­til 2015 on Fox. She is sur­vived by her par­ents, Yolanda and Ge­orge; a younger brother, My­chal; a sis­ter, Nick­ayla; and her four-year-old son.

“Naya Rivera was a fierce tal­ent with so much more to do and this is such a ter­ri­ble tragedy. We are for­ever grate­ful for the in­deli­ble con­tri­bu­tion she made to ‘Glee,’ from the first episode to the last,” said a state­ment from 20th Cen­tury Fox TV and Fox En­ter­tain­ment.

A na­tive of Santa Clarita, Cal­i­for­nia, Rivera be­gan act­ing at 4, ap­pear­ing in such se­ries as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Fam­ily Mat­ters” and “The Bernie Mac Show.” As a teen, she strug­gled with an eat­ing dis­or­der and had breast im­plants put in at 18 (“a con­fi­dence thing, not a sex­ual thing,” she would later write in her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy).

“I had the low­est self es­teem in high school pos­si­ble. I wasn’t pop­u­lar, I didn’t have friends, but I would say it’s re­ally im­por­tant that you know who you are and you’re go­ing to win in the end be­cause of that,” Rivera said in a 2011 in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press.

She worked odd jobs as a tele­mar­keter, a nanny, a wait­ress and an Aber­crom­bie & Fitch greeter be­fore land­ing the role of San­tana Lopez on Ryan Mur­phy’s “Glee.” She au­di­tioned by singing “Emo­tion.” The pi­lot of­fered her no speak­ing lines.

Rivera played a se­condary char­ac­ter — the mean cheer­leader with blis­ter­ing put-downs — in the show’s first sea­son, but be­came a show reg­u­lar in the sec­ond sea­son as she strug­gled to re­veal her char­ac­ter’s sex­ual iden­tity. Many on so­cial me­dia cred­ited her char­ac­ter for mak­ing them feel bet­ter about their own sex­u­al­ity.

“Hon­estly, I never thought I’d ac­tu­ally be play­ing a teen les­bian,” she told the Los An­ge­les Times in 2011. “I didn’t think it was go­ing to go this far. But I’m glad that it did, be­cause there have been a lot of fans who have ex­pressed that they’ve been go­ing through sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions in their lives. I’ve heard from girls that are in high school, they’re 16, 17, and they’re like, ‘I came out to my mom,’ or ‘I came out to my friends, and thank you for help­ing me do that.’”

Some of her more mem­o­rable songs on the show in­clude a cover of Fleet­wood Mac’s “Land­slide” with guest star Gwyneth Pal­trow, “Here Comes the Sun” with Demi Lo­vato, and a tear­ful cover of The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young.”

In the pref­ace to her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Rivera wrote that moth­er­hood had changed her life and given it per­spec­tive. She said she was braver, too.

“Your life doesn’t have to be per­fect for you to be proud. In fact, I think it’s the op­po­site: the more im­per­fect your life has been, the prouder you should be, be­cause it means you’ve come that much fur­ther, and also prob­a­bly had a lot more fun along the way.”

WILLY SANJUAN/INVISION VIA AP

In this Jan. 13, 2018 file photo, Naya Rivera par­tic­i­pates in the “Step Up: High Wa­ter” panel dur­ing the YouTube Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion Win­ter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif.

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