Demi Lovato and the cast of Glee reunited for a moving video tribute to their late friend and castmate, Naya Rivera, at the GLAAD Media Awards last night.
“I don’t have to tell you that this year was a tough, tough year,” Lovato said. “ 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 noted how Naya’s character, Santa Lopez, was “groundbreaking for closeted queer girls” like Lovato and her “ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world.”
She wasn’t alone in wanting to remember Rivera, and the other cast members shared fond memories of not just a talented and powerful performer, but also a good person and an even better mother.
Jane Lynch recalled Rivera’s first days as a regular cast member.
“I always thought she was cute and she was a great dancer, and then Ryan started giving her lines and I was like, ‘Wow, this girl is really something,’” Lynch shared.
Rivera’s riveting performance in Nutbush City Limits was singled out by multiple cast mates. Becca Tobin said it was the first time she had seen her perform live and remembered her “you could not take your eyes off of her.”
Alex Newell heartily agreed, saying Rivera “quite literally turned that song out” and adding that her own performance watching that scene was straight from the heart. “My reactions that you see in that scene are very true, very honest, very like in the moment because I was just so floored about the power and prowess that she had.”
Despite her talents in front of the camera, it was her life off camera that her friends from Glee remember most. They all spoke of a kind and caring person who loved to make people laugh. As Darren Criss said, there was “always just so much more than met the eye” with Rivera.
Others also spoke reverently of a devoted mother. Matthew Morrison remembered how their friendship changed after both became parents.
“To see her put all that energy into her son was just an incredible sight to see and something I’ll always remember,” he said. Josey Hill Dorsey echoed those sentiments.
“Her best role was being a mom,” Dorsey observed.
Rivera tragically passed away last year in a boating accident on Lake Piru just north of Los Angeles, California. Her five-year-old son was found unattended and sleeping in a boat. Rivera’s lifeless body was found five days later. She was 33 at the time of her drowning.
Jessalyn Giulsig concluded the event by reading a tribute to Rivera from her mother, Yolanda Previtire, who said her eldest daughter would have been “honored” to her work honored by GLAAD, and that as a mother she was “grateful” her daughter helped “change the landscape of how we view and see each other.” She also opined that her daughter never fully understand the impact her life and performance had on the LGBTQ+ community and those who had the joy of knowing her.
“I don’t believe that she realized how important she was to this world,” her mother concluded.