Naya Rivera, American actress and singer, has been confirmed to have died following her disappearance at Lake Piru in California. Her four-year-old son was found asleep in the boat from which he and Rivera went swimming; Rivera did not resurface. She was 33 years old.
Beginning her career as a child actress in numerous television shows and advertisements, Rivera rose to fame as Santana Lopez in Glee, where her character resonated with millions. Lopez, a cheerleader with unwavering sassiness, bold expressions of distaste for others and an incredible singing voice, became a fan favourite for many across her 113 episodes, but it was her storylines which allowed fans to truly connect with Rivera’s character.
Lopez struggled with her sexuality during the second season, depicting the worry and the hardship associated with coming out and the fear of acceptance. Coming out within a school setting and to a conservative family were both represented, as well as the love for a close friend.
The realistic and accurate representation of the experience of being an LGBT+ person of colour provided a beacon of light and hope for many fans who found themselves in similar situations, making Rivera and her character an immensely valuable person for thousands of young LGBT+ people.
As one of few characters on primetime television to accurately portray these issues without being based on stereotypes, many LGBT+ people mourn for her deeply, having lost a true inspiration and source of comfort from knowing their struggle is not one faced alone.
Rivera then went on to star in many television series and feature films until her death.
Rivera will be remembered for her endless talent, the impact she had on millions and her love for her son.