On Thursday ― in honor of the 10th anniversary of Rivera’s “Glee” character Santana Lopez coming out ― Lovato, who guest-starred as Santana’s girlfriend on the show, introduced the cast ahead of the memorial, and spoke about Rivera’s “impact on LGBTQ teens and Latinx LGBTQ representation on television.”
Rivera tragically died in July after going boating with her son, Josey, in California’s Lake Piru. She was 33.
“I will always cherish the chance I got to play Naya’s girlfriend,” Lovato said in her introduction. “Her ambitions and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world. That’s the power of a show like ‘Glee.’”
Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz, Matthew Morrison, Heather Morris, Kevin McHale, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Jane Lynch, Harry Shum Jr. and several others shared their memories of Rivera, recalling their favorite things about her on and off the set.
“I remember when Naya became a regular cast member. She was a dancer. And I always thought she was cute, and she was a great dancer,” said Lynch, who played cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on “Glee.” “And then [showrunner] Ryan [Murphy] stared giving her lines, and I was like, ‘Wow, this girl is really something.’”
Ushkowitz remarked that it was always a feat to get Rivera to laugh “because you knew you actually did something really funny.” Morrison remembered Rivera being a great mom, telling viewers he and Rivera became “much better friends when we both had children, and to see her put all that energy into her son was just an incredible sight to see and something I’ll always remember.”
Yolanda Previtire, Rivera’s mother, also provided a message for the tribute, saying: “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,” Previtire continued. “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 we view and see each other.”
You can watch the entire tribute above.