At the GLAAD Media Awards on April 8, the cast of the barrier-breaking show Glee virtually reunited to remember Naya Rivera, who died tragically last summer. During its run, Glee featured many characters of different sexual orientations; Santana Lopez, played by Rivera, came out as a lesbian over the course of the show and had relationships with other female characters, including Dani, played by Demi Lovato. Their relationship was one of the first examples of mainstream television embracing Latina LGBTQ+ representation.
Lovato, who has herself come out as pansexual in the years since she appeared on the show, introduced the virtual reunion, telling the audience, “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. I will always cherish the chance I got to play Naya’s girlfriend Dani on Glee.” Lovato called Rivera’s role, “groundbreaking for closeted queer girls, like I was at the time.”
From their respective homes, many of the Glee cast shared memories of Rivera, reminiscing about her talent, wit, and joie de vivre. Heather Morris, who played Santana’s best friend and later girlfriend Brittany, participated, as did Chris Colfer, whose character Kurt Hummel persevered over homophobic bullies in one of the show’s most poignant storylines.
Jenna Ushkowitz, who played Tina Cohen-Chang on the show, remembered, “Her best role was her being a mom. That was the most fulfilling to see her do that.” Rivera shared her son, Josey, with actor Ryan Dorsey.
Amber Riley, who played Mercedes, recalled that Rivera had twice hosted that very program, once on her own and once with Glee cast mate Cory Monteith, who has also since passed away.
Rivera’s mother also sent in a statement about how honored her daughter would be to be recognized by the GLAAD organization.