On Thursday night, actress, musician and advocate Demi Lovato introduced a heartwarming tribute to the late, great Glee actress Naya Rivera. Lovato was a friend to Rivera’s Santana and also played her girlfriend on the Fox musical series.
The tribute honored the 10-year anniversary of Santana’s coming out as lesbian in the GLAAD Media Award-winning series. As Lovato pointed out, this was a groundbreaking character for the Latinx LGBTQ representation on television. “Her ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world,” said Lovato of Rivera. “That’s the power of a show like Glee.”
The special tribute included Jacob Artist, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Jessalyn Gilsig, Dot Marie-Jones, Vanessa Lengies, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Alex Newell, Lauren Potter, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., Becca Tobin, and Jenna Ushkowitz.
“There was so much more than met the eye with Naya,” said Criss.
Lynch reminisced about how she was impressed with how great of a performer Rivera was when she became a series regular. Tobin, Ushkowitz and Newell celebrated her amazing performance of “Nutbush City Limits”.
McHale said that everyone said the same thing about Rivera when she treated everyone with kindness. Ushkowitz added, “She made everybody laugh on screen and off but the real win is if you made her laugh because you knew you actually did something really funny.”
Morrison talked about how great of a mother she was and Riley pointed out how she was the host of the GLAAD Media Awards twice — once on her own and with the late Cory Monteith.
The cast shared the heartbreaking scene when Santana’s grandmother kicked her out of the house for being gay and addressed what an impact she made for the queer and Latinx community.
Rivera’s mother, Yolanda Previtire wasn’t able to join in on the tribute, but she did share a message: “Naya would be honored to receive this recognition. When Naya was told that Santana would be a lesbian she called me to let me know and I asked her how did she feel about that and she said ‘I feel great about it!'”
“Little did we know that she would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community,” continued Previtire. “Her desire was to always be an advocate to those who did not have a voice. I don’t believe that she realized how important she was to this world. I am grateful that my eldest daughter helped to change the landscape of how e view and see each other. Thank you GLAAD for keeping my daughter’s legacy alive.”
Watch the full tribute above.