The body of actress Naya Rivera, known for her role in Glee, was found at Southern California lake, Lake Piru. The discovery came five days after Rivera disappeared on Lake Piru, where her son was found on July 8 asleep and alone on a rented pontoon boat, authorities said.
According to the police working on Rivera's case, the actor died trying to save her son. The boy later told the police that after the two went swimming, Rivera pushed him into the boat but when he turned around to see her, she had disappeared underwater.
Who was Naya Rivera?
Naya Rivera, an American model, actor and singer, began her career as a child actor but shot to fame in 2009 with her role as Santana Lopez on Fox's 'Glee', a musical comedy. Rivera starred in the show from 2009 to 2015, when she was abruptly written out of the series after an alleged feud with one of the producers over co-star Lea Michele who played Rachel Berry.
In an interview and in her memoir, 'Sorry, not Sorry' published in 2016, Rivera had revealed that she had auditioned for 'Glee' because it gave her an opportunity to act, dance and sing at the same time. While Rivera's character started out with the typical 'Mean Girls' stereotype - as the arrogant and rude cheerleader - she developed into a more empathetic and complex character struggling to come to terms with her sexuality.
In her memoir, Rivera also opened up about battling eating disorders as a teenager. Following problems at home, Rivera reportedly had anorexia and would avoid meals or throw away food at school. In an interview with People magazine, she had said that she had realised the seriousness of her eating disorder only when she began writing the memoir. She also hoped that her book would help other girls who were struggling the way she had in school.
Rivera's Santana Lopez paved the way for serious representation of LGBT characters
Back in the late 2000s, when LGBT characters and storylines in Hollywood were scarce, Glee paved the way for serious representation of homosexual characters on screen. The show, fearless and bold as it seemed more than ten years ago, took up causes like homophobic bullying, the struggles of accepting one's sexuality and coming out of the closet - demonstrated by two lead characters, Santana Lopez and Kurt Hummel.
Rivera's Santana was in love with her best friend, Brittany, and is able to come out to her religious and orthodox family only in Season 3 of the show.
"I love girls the way that I’m supposed to feel about boys. It’s something that’s always been inside of me and I really want to share it with you because I love you so much and I want you to know me — who I really am" - Santana's coming out speech is still considered to be one of her finest acting moments.
And clearly, her character has helped thousands of fans around the world come to terms with their own sexuality. After reports of Rivera's death emerged, several tweeted to express how much Santana Lopez meant to them:
As genderfluid person I always resonated with her story more and she truly gave me so much confidence when I was bullied hardly in school. I’m honestly so devastated
— Andrea Di Giovanni | STREAM MIRACLE OUT NOW!! (@andreadgiovanni) July 9, 2020
seeing naya rivera as santana was so important to me, watching a lesbian character develop through storylines where we weren’t the butt of the joke, where we thrived, where we had love and respect... i owe so much of my confidence as a gay woman to glee + santana, this is so sad — Foxgluvv (@foxgluvv) July 9, 2020
Santana Lopez was the first lesbian character I had seen on tv. I had seen gay characters but not lesbian. She helped me understand who I am and accept myself. Her character and journey meant so much to me so thank you Naya Rivera you impacted my life for the better.
— ミ☆ (@sapphicbabes) July 10, 2020
naya rivera truly changed me. being a latina gay kid in a conservative city made me feel ashamed of what i was feeling every day. finding her/the first character who looked and felt the same way i did pulled me out of a darkness. i love her. i owe her. i’ll never give up on her.
— a ミ☆ (@SLSHIEFBRAY) July 10, 2020
What happened to Naya Rivera?
On July 8, Rivera's son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, was found asleep and alone on the boat the duo had rented in Lake Piru which led to the cops being alerted. The two had gone swimming in the river and it was a few hours before authorities were informed that Rivera was missing. This prompted the five day search which resulted in her body being discovered.
Authorities said the following day that they believed Rivera had drowned, and they had shifted to working to find her body rather than find her alive. Her body has now been sent for an autopsy.
Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said during a press conference that Rivera had mustered enough energy to help her son, but not to save herself. The cops believe that the actor had been trapped by vegetation beneath the surface of the lake, which is why it took five days to spot her.
Reports of Rivera's demise comes almost exactly seven years after her co-star and close friend Cory Monteith's death. On July 13, 2013, Monteith was found dead at the age of 31 due to a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin, while the show was still on the air.