Hearts across America were broken on Monday when it was confirmed that after a five-day search, actress Naya Rivera, who disappeared while spending the day on a boat in Lake Piru with her 4-year-old son, had died. Family, friends, and fans everywhere who had yearned for a safe return are now honoring her life and sharing the love they had for the incredible and talented 33-year-old.
Rivera’s character on the hit Glee, Santana Lopez, was widely known to be one of its most iconic, fierce, and hilarious characters. This was her breakthrough role, and it instantly gained her a huge fanbase.
Rivera touched the lives of many, playing a lesbian teenager before it was commonly seen on screen. Many young adults credit her with spreading awareness about what it is like being a member of the LGBTQ+ community and how to handle acceptance of yourself and of others (or a lack thereof). Her talent, beauty inside and out, and kindness were evident, and she will be deeply missed.
See below for eight times Rivera stole the show as Santana on Glee.
Dealing with her family's disapproval
It’s easy to say that Santana’s abuela (Ivonne Coll) was less than pleased when she discovered that Brittany (Heather Morris) was Santana’s fiancé. (Alma does not approve of same-sex marriage.) When Santana and Brittany broke the news to Alma after a performance, they shot down her beliefs effortlessly and stood together. This scene really shows the passion that the couple had for each other, and we saw a serious side of Santana that was rare.
Seeing her Abuela at her wedding
After feeling like she had lost a member of her family once she told her abuela about marrying Brittany, Santana was overjoyed to see she had decided to come watch her granddaughter get married. They forgave each other and realized you don’t need to support someone else’s beliefs or decisions to love them. The relief in Santana’s eyes was clear, and she finally felt like she could get married without having to hide.
A heated confrontation with Kurt
After Kurt (Chris Colfer) interfered with Santana’s marriage proposal to Brittany, Santana called him out for allowing his own insecurities and struggles in his past experiences to get the best of him and put them on somebody else. It was one of those classic Santana rapid-fire rants, and it was clear she could go on and on for hours. Her sass levels were all the way up.
Her big break in TV
While Santana certainly had her powerful and fiery moments, she also had some that were hilariously ridiculous. She booked a commercial for a yeast infection medicine called “Yeast-I-Stat”, and it is almost impossible to take her seriously when she says, “I like yeast in my bagel, but not in my muffin.” There’s not much else to say about this one—just see for yourself.
When she became a spy for a day
After Sebastian (Grant Gustin) threw a slushie that was meant for Kurt but hit Blaine (Darren Criss) instead, Blaine realized there was something wrong with his eye. Santana wanted to get to the bottom of it, and she tricked the Dalton Academy Warbler into revealing he put rock salt in the slushie, which meant Sebastian had the intention of injuring a member of New Directions. She recorded the whole interaction and used “top-secret surveillance equipment” to do so.
Her powerful voice revealed
It’s always an incredible experience watching Santana rock it with her stellar vocals and dance moves. By far one of her most memorable performances was the “River Deep, Mountain High” duet with Mercedes (Amber Riley). Since it was early on in the series, we were new to seeing her passion for performing shine. We can see her having the time of her life, and it will totally make you want to get up and dance.
When she has a sing-off
Speaking of Santana and Mercedes' iconic duets, their performance of “That Boy is Mine” brought all of the sass we know Santana can bring. The two basically fought through song, as Santana felt threatened that Mercedes was dating her ex-boyfriend, Puck (Mark Salling). Clearly, as the show went on, those feelings faded, but the passion and intensity she felt at that time was definitely powerful.
Making her dreams come true
Santana was an independent woman who had goals and dreams for herself. She didn’t want an average life, she didn’t particularly want to go to college, and she really didn’t care about other people’s opinions. The one thing she did want was support from her family. Before her graduation, her mother (Gloria Estefan) gave her the best gift she could have asked for: money to go to New York to pursue her dreams. While her mother would have loved for her to go to college, as she said, she cared more about her daughter being happy, and she had faith in Santana’s talent and passion.
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