Naya Rivera remembered as inspirational Latina who redefined Afro-Latinx representation

The artist Demi Lovato and "Pose" creator Steven Canals praised the actress for her portrayal of a queer Afro-Latina on prime-time TV.
FOX's "Glee" - Season Five
Naya Rivera, right, and Demi Lovato in the "Tina in The Sky With Diamonds" episode of GLEE that aired on Fox on Oct. 3, 2013.FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

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By Nicole Acevedo

Latino celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Steven Canals and others are remembering "Glee" actress Naya Rivera for inspiring Latina women throughout her career as well as redefining queer and Afro-Latino representation on TV.

A body presumed to be Rivera's was found at Lake Piru in California on Monday, five days after she went missing during a boating trip with her son, authorities said.

The grim news immediately triggered an outpouring of condolences.

"RIP to Naya Rivera. Cover her son, God, he’s going to need you," the Afro-Dominican actress Julissa Calderón, known for her starring role in Netflix's "Gentefied," tweeted.

Latin urban singer Becky G. tweeted: "Beautiful Naya Rivera, Rest In Peace. My thoughts and prayers are with your loved ones. You will be missed & never forgotten."

Rivera, who was 33, rose to stardom after playing Santana Lopez on Fox’s hit musical comedy-drama “Glee,” starting in 2009.

"I'll never be able to articulate the importance of seeing Naya, a Black Puerto Rican, portraying a queer Afro-Latina on prime-time TV," Canals, the co-creator of FX's "Pose," who is also a Black Puerto Rican, tweeted. "I'm heartbroken over all the stories that will remain untold."

Demi Lovato, who is of Mexican descent and played Rivera's girlfriend on "Glee," said in a social media post that she remembers Rivera as someone whose "accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world."

"I’ll forever cherish the opportunity to play your girlfriend on Glee," Lovato wrote. "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."

Rivera's work in music and TV earned her three American Latino Media Arts Awards, her first in 2012 for "Glee."

After "Glee" ended in 2015, she has featured in Lifetime’s "Devious Maids," which was the first prime-time TV show to star five Latinas when it debuted in 2013. The following year, she published her memoir "Sorry, Not Sorry," recounting her life and career.

Rivera also starred alongside Charlie Sheen in Crackle's 2017 feature "Mad Families."

Most recently, Rivera starred in "Step Up: High Water," which aired for two seasons on YouTube and was picked up for a third season by Starz.

"Her remarkable contributions to our industry created a lasting memory that will be carried forward by everyone who had the privilege of knowing her," Starz said in a joint statement with parent company Lionsgate.

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