Four days ago, my mom discovered a clip of Glee on YouTube and told me I should start watching the show because it had good musical performances. I binge-watched the entire first season in two days and fell in love with every character, including Santana. Your passion, talent, and charisma stood out from the beginning. You brought so much energy to every performance, held your own in a cast filled with equally incredible leading actors, and added a little sparkle to every episode.
I had heard that an actress from Glee had gone missing a few days before, and I recognized you from the pictures I had seen trending on social media. I didn’t know much about what had happened, but I watched each episode hoping that you were all right.
My heart fell when I saw the news yesterday. It’s such an eerie feeling to realize that this person you’ve just started to care about is suddenly gone. Last week, I didn’t even know who you were, and now I’m crying because you died. I never knew you personally, and I didn’t grow up watching Glee for years like some of my friends did. I didn’t know you at all. The person I knew was Santana, the fierce and beautiful cheerleader. But while you, Naya Rivera, was so much more than a character on Glee, Santana Lopez would have been nothing without your dedication to the role. It may seem strange, but after watching you on Glee and hearing the stories the other cast members have told about you, I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. You had such an infectious personality and spark, you were kind to everyone, and you always stood up for inclusion in the entertainment industry.
Your body may be gone from this world, but your spirit lives on in so many ways. You are an inspiration to millions of people, and you will continue to touch hearts for many years to come. You gave a whole generation of queer women a heroine they could identify with and cheer for. You were a Latina role model who defied the stereotypes placed upon women of color in the world of film and TV. In 50 years from now, someone will ask, “Who was willing to stick their neck out to fight for lesbian representation on TV before gay marriage was even legal?” and people will say, “Naya Rivera”. At the beginning of Glee, Rachel says, “Being part of something special makes you special.” You were part of something special every day because you were always brave enough to put your own interest aside to help someone else. That stubborn courage is why your beautiful son will grow up and have a life of his own. Your legacy will last forever.
I wish I had known about you sooner. I wish I could have fangirled over you for many happy years instead of just four days. But you have brought more light to this world in 33 years than most people do in 90. I feel so blessed to have known even a small part of the amazing person you were. I am overwhelmed with emotions right now, but I don’t want to be sad that you’ve passed on. I hope you are up in a beautiful place, singing your heart out with the angels. I hope you can be reunited with Corey. I hope you know how much we love you. I hope you can rest easy.
Tonight, I’m going to watch Glee. I know it will hurt when I see you on the screen and I remember that you’re not really here anymore, but I know that you created these episodes to bring laughter, love, and understanding into our homes. I want to see Santana’s story unfold for the first time. I want to celebrate a beautiful star who put so much of her soul into her work. I want to thank God for letting your brilliance touch my world.
Rest in peace and power, Naya.
A baby Gleek