Many celebrity deaths had the world mourning in 2020. One of them was the passing of Naya Rivera, who everyone got to know as Santana Lopez on Glee. So, it was heartwarming to see the Glee cast get together again last week at the GLAAD Media Awards and honor her memory.
The tribute included Glee alumni Jacob Artist, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Jessalyn Gilsig, Dot Marie-Jones, Vanessa Lengies, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Alex Newell, Lauren Potter, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., Becca Tobin, and Jenna Ushkowitz.
Actress and singer Demi Lovato opened the tribute and introduced the cast. Lovato was Rivera’s friend, and she also played Santana’s girlfriend for a few episodes on the show.
“I don’t have to tell you that this year was a tough, tough year. A particular moment of heartbreak stands out for me: losing my friend Naya Rivera,” she said. “The character Naya played, Santana Lopez, was groundbreaking for closeted queer girls like I was at the time. And her ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world.”
Then, we see cast members of Glee greeting each other in a virtual gathering before they started to address how Rivera was a loss that hit them particularly hard and talk about her influence in the world.
Criss said, “There was always more than meets the eye with Naya.”
The cast agreed, with Lynch and Potter talking about how in awe they were of her talent. Tobin, Ushkowitz, and Newell then went on to talk about her stunning “Nutbush City Limits” performance on the show.
McHale also mentioned how kind she was with everyone and how many of the messages of tribute after her death were about the compassion she extended to people, including ones she had just met. Meanwhile, Morrison and Ushkowitz emphasized how much of a great mother she was to her son as well.
Then, the cast discussed how influential Naya Rivera and Santana Lopez in the landscape of queer representation. Riley even reminded everyone that Rivera has actually hosted the GLAAD awards twice, once on her own and once with the late Cory Monteith.
In fact, this tribute did not only honor Rivera but also the 10th anniversary of Santana’s coming out as a lesbian. So, the cast reminisced about how iconic that heartbreaking scene was and how much of an impact that character had on the queer community, particularly for LGBTQ+ Latinx kids.
They closed the tribute with words from Rivera’s mother, Yolanda Previtire, who wasn’t able to join them. Gilsig read the message on her behalf. In the message, Previtire said, “Little did we know that [Naya] would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community.”
“Her desire was to always be an advocate to those who did not have a voice,” she continued. “I don’t believe that 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.”
You can watch the tribute here: