The ‘Glee’ Cast’s Tributes to Naya Rivera After Her Death Will Make You Cry 

Naya Rivera
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Forever in their hearts. The Glee cast’s tributes after Naya Rivera’s death show that the late actress will always be remembered. Rivera was reported missing on Wednesday, July 8, after she and her 4-year-old son, Josey, took a trip to Lake Piru in Ventura County, California. After a six-day search, Rivera was declared dead by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department on Monday, July 13, after her body was recovered from the lake She was 33 years old.

Rivera went missing after she and Josey rented a pontoon boat and went swimming in Lake Piru. After the boat’s three-hour rental had passed, staff went to look for the vessel and found Josey asleep on board in a towel and a child-sized life jacket. Though Rivera’s purse, wallet and an adult-sized life jacket were on board (which authorities believe belonged to the late actress), the mother of one was nowhere to be seen. Before Josey was discovered by lake staff, a 911 call was also made by owners of a nearby boat who saw the 4-year-old alone on the watercraft. Rivera shares Josey with her ex-husband Ryan Dorsey.

Since Rivera’s death was confirmed, many of Rivera’s former Glee costars have taken to their social media to pay tribute to the late actress. Prior to her death, Rivera played Santana Lopez on the FOX comedy-musical from 2009 to 2015. Many cast members, including Heather Morris and Amber Riley, also helped look for Rivera. The cast photographed holding hands near the edge of Lake Piru around the time her body was discovered.

"Glee" Cast After Naya Rivera's Death

Image: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock.

Ahead are the heartbreaking tributes from her former cast mates.

Demi Lovato’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Lovato played Rivera’s character’s girlfriend, Dani, in season 5 of Glee. In her tribute, the “Give Your Heart a Break” singer shared several photos of her and Rivera on set, along with a heartfelt caption about how Rivera and Santana inspired the former Disney Channel star to come to terms with her own sexuality. Lovato also noted how Rivera inspired her as a Latinx woman.

Lovato wrote, “RIP Naya Rivera. I’ll forever cherish the opportunity to play your girlfriend on Glee. The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted queer girls (like me at the time) and open queer girls, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world. My heart goes out to your loved ones at this time.. ❤️🕊

Kevin McHale’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

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My Naya, my Snixxx, my Bee. I legitimately can not imagine this world without you. • 7 years ago today, she and I were together in London when we found out about Cory. We were so far away, but I was so thankful that we had each other. A week ago today we were talking about running away to Hawaii. This doesn’t make sense. And I know it probably never will. • She was so independent and strong and the idea of her not being here is something I cannot comprehend. She was the single most quick-witted person I’ve ever met, with a steel-trap memory that could recall the most forgettable conversations from a decade ago verbatim. The amount of times she would memorize all of those crazy monologues on Glee the morning of and would never ever mess up during the scene… I mean, she was clearly more talented than the rest of us. She was the most talented person I’ve ever known. There is nothing she couldn’t do and I’m furious we won’t get to see more. • I’m thankful for all the ways in which she made me a better person. She taught me how to advocate for myself and to speak up for the things and people that were important to me, always. I’m thankful for the times I grew an ab muscle from laughing so hard at something she said. I’m thankful she became like family. I’m thankful that my dad happened to have met her weeks before I did and when I got Glee, he told me to “look out for a girl named Naya because she seemed nice.” Well dad, she was nice and she became one of my favorite people ever. • If you were fortunate enough to have known her, you’ll know that her most natural talent of all was being a mother. The way that she loved her boy, it was truly Naya at her most peaceful. I’m thankful that Naya got that beautiful little boy back on that boat. I’m thankful he will have a strong family around him to protect him and tell him about his incredible mom. I just hope more than anything that her family is given the space and time to come to terms with this. For having such tiny body, Naya had such a gigantic presence, a void that will now be felt by all of us - those of us who knew her personally and the millions of you who loved her through your TVs. I love you, Bee.

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McHale played Artie Abrams, a paraplegic member of the glee club and one of Santana’s friends. In his tribute to his late costar, McHale remembered the moment when he and Rivera were in London when they learned about the death of their other Glee costar, Cory Monteith.

“My Naya, my Snixxx, my Bee. I legitimately can not imagine this world without you,” he wrote. “7 years ago today, she and I were together in London when we found out about Cory. We were so far away, but I was so thankful that we had each other. A week ago today we were talking about running away to Hawaii. This doesn’t make sense. And I know it probably never will.”

McHale went on to describe how talented Rivera was, especially when it came to memorizing Ryan Murphy’s notoriously long monologues. “She was so independent and strong and the idea of her not being here is something I cannot comprehend. She was the single most quick-witted person I’ve ever met, with a steel-trap memory that could recall the most forgettable conversations from a decade ago verbatim,” he wrote. “The amount of times she would memorize all of those crazy monologues on Glee the morning of and would never ever mess up during the scene… I mean, she was clearly more talented than the rest of us. She was the most talented person I’ve ever known. There is nothing she couldn’t do and I’m furious we won’t get to see more.”

McHale ended his post by talking about how great of a mother Rivera was and how selfless she was to save her son over herself. “I’m thankful for all the ways in which she made me a better person. She taught me how to advocate for myself and to speak up for the things and people that were important to me, always. I’m thankful for the times I grew an ab muscle from laughing so hard at something she said,” McHale wrote. “I’m thankful she became like family. I’m thankful that my dad happened to have met her weeks before I did and when I got Glee, he told me to “look out for a girl named Naya because she seemed nice.” Well dad, she was nice and she became one of my favorite people ever.

He continued, “If you were fortunate enough to have known her, you’ll know that her most natural talent of all was being a mother. The way that she loved her boy, it was truly Naya at her most peaceful. I’m thankful that Naya got that beautiful little boy got back on that boat. I’m thankful he will have a strong family around him to protect him and tell him about his incredible mom.

I just hope more than anything that her family is given the space and time to come to terms with this. For having such tiny body, Naya had such a gigantic presence, a void that will now be felt by all of us – those of us who knew her personally and the millions of you who loved her.”

Chris Colfer’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Colfer played Kurt Hummel, a gay member of the glee club who is bullied because of his sexuality. In his post, Colfer, who won a Golden Globe for his role on Glee, remembered Rivera for her beauty, talent, poise and fearlessness.

He wrote, “How can you convey all your love and respect for someone in one post? How can you summarize a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone? If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t. Her brilliance and humor were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly. She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness. She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be. 💔 Sending all my love to her wonderful family and her beautiful son.”

Amber Riley’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Riley played Mercedes Jones, a confident member of the glee club and one of Santana’s close friends. Riley shared a sweet video of Rivera and Josey, with a caption about how the late actress was her “favorite duet partner” from Glee.

She wrote, “My favorite duet partner. I love you. I miss you. I don’t have words right now, just lots of feelings. Rest In Peace Angel, and know that your family will never have to worry about anything.”

Darren Criss’ Tribute to Naya Rivera

Darren Criss played Blaine Anderson, Kurt’s boyfriend and a member of the glee club’s rivals, The Warblers. In his post, Criss remembered how much Rivera made him laugh. “She was bold. She was outrageous. She was a LOT of fun.⁣ ⁣ Naya made me laugh like no one else on that set,” he wrote. “I always said it while we were working together and I’ve maintained it ever since. Her playful, wicked sense of humor never ceased to bring a smile to my face.⁣  She played by her own rules and was in a class of her own. She had a brashness about her that I couldn’t help but be enchanted by.”

He went on to talk about Rivera’s talent and how good of a friend she was to him. He wrote, “I also always loved her voice, and savored every chance I got to hear her sing. I think she had more talent than we would have ever been able to see.⁣ ⁣ I was constantly moved by the degree to which she took care of her family, and how she looked out for her friends. She showed up for me on numerous occasions where she didn’t have to, and I was always so grateful for her friendship then, as I certainly am now.⁣ ⁣ And even as I sit here, struggling to comprehend, gutted beyond description- the very thought of her cracks me up and still brings a smile to my face. That was Naya’s gift. And it’s a gift that will never go away. ⁣ ⁣ Rest in peace you wild, hilarious, beautiful angel.”

Harry Shum Jr.’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Shum Jr. played Mike Chang, a shy football player and dancer joins the glee club. In his post, Shum Jr. talked about how he’s “failing miserably” to process the news of his late costar’s death. He went on to remember Rivera for her “infectious laughter,” something her other costars have also said noted.

“I always imagined old future senior moments where we would hear your infectious laughter down the hall knowing that our funny bone was in for a treat,” he wrote. “To many people, myself included, you were the life of the party. Not only able to rock when fun was to be had after a long day but that shining friend that was always willing to listen, offer sympathy, perspective and at times, give much needed levity to any situation.”

He continued, “You gave life your all and I hope all the good that you have given to the world will be returned in abundance when you reunite with our brother in the heavanly skies. I’m so grateful for our memories. We will make sure to keep your legacy and spirit alive so Josey will grow up to know the incredible woman you were. Love you, Naya. You are already missed. Eternally.”

Jenna Ushkowitz’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Ushkowitz, who played Tina Cohen-Chang in Glee, shared a photo with Rivera from the 2010 Golden Globes when Glee took home the award for best musical or comedy TV series. Ushkowitz wrote a long message to her costar about how she owned every room she walked in and how Josey, Rivera’s family and her former costars will remember her dearly.

“There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel but… Naya, you were a ⚡️ force and everyone who got to be around you knew it and felt the light and joy you exuded when you walked into a room,” she wrote. “You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors. I was lucky enough to share so many laughs, martinis and secrets with you. I can not believe I took for granted that you’d always be here. Our friendship went in waves as life happens and we grow, so I will not look back and regret but know I love you and promise to help the legacy of your talent, humor, light and loyalty live on. You are so loved. You deserved the world and we will make sure Josey and your family feel that everyday. I miss you already.”

Melissa Benoist’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Benoist, who played Marley Rose on Glee, wrote a long post about how, though Rivera is gone, she has not left the mind of her loved ones. Benoist went on to describe Rivera as “bravely authentic” and “genuinely kind.”

“She has not left my mind this last week. It’s difficult to find words. There was an undeniable beauty that she radiated inside and out, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that I got to witness that up close even for the short period of time that I did,” she wrote. “I was so intimidated by her, yet she had a way of disarming that just made you want to be around her, hear what she had to say (because it would undoubtedly be the sharpest and most real thing you would hear all day). She was kind and open to me when she didn’t have to be, when I was a naive, clueless and insecure newcomer. Bravely authentic, genuinely kind, incredibly talented and deeply loved by so many. Thinking of her family and loved ones. Rest In Peace, Naya.”

Becca Tobin’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Tobin played Kitty Wilde on Glee. In her tribute, Tobin shared a photo of her character and Santana, with a caption about how Rivera was “insanely talented” and welcomed her when she joined in season 3 of the show.

“Naya was insanely talented, breathtakingly gorgeous, and one of the wittiest people I’ve ever met, but the legacy she left behind for me is her kindness. I joined the cast of Glee in the third season and as the newcomer, I was intimidated and terrified,” Tobin wrote. “The cast was already such a tight-knit group who had been working incredibly hard together for over three years to make it a hit show and I never expected any of them to have time for me. To my surprise, Naya, one of the most beloved by the rest of the cast (and the entire world), showed me instant warmth and kindness. She invited me to parties and gatherings and was always there to give advice. She was a superstar who had nothing to gain from being kind to the new girl, but she was and that changed this new girl’s entire experience on that show. I will forever be grateful to that beautiful human. My heart goes out to her family and her sweet boy. ❤️”

Kristin Chenoweth’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Chenoweth played April Rhodes, a former glee club member and teacher Will Schuester’s former crush. The Broadway star shared a photo of Rivera and Josey with a sweet caption about how she will be remembered. “Thank you for what you gave the world. I love you,” Chenoweth wrote.

Jacob Artist’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Artist played Jake Puckerman, the half-brother to Puck and a new student at McKinley High. He joins in the fourth season. Artist took to his Twitter to write about how he was intimidated to meet Rivera, but in the end, she was one of the most welcoming cast members who took him under her wing. “i was so intimided meeting naya for the first time. i was a fish out of water and her warmth was disarming. for all her gifts as a performer she was also gifted as a person and made anyone feel seen and included. celebrating your mark on the world today🕊🤍,” he tweeted.

Alex Newell’s Tribute to Naya Rivera

Newell played Unique Adams on Glee. After Rivera’s death was announced, Newell took to their Twitter, urging fans to “lift” up Rivera’s grieving loved ones.

“Now more than ever we must lift her family and friends up especially Josey! My heart is sent to them… Josey you are truly loved by every single person who loves your mommy! I love you Naya!” Newell tweeted.

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