Glee star Naya Rivera confirmed dead at age 33

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Naya Rivera attends the LA premiere of Roadside Attraction's "Judy" at Samuel Goldwyn Theater on September 19, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Naya Rivera attends the LA premiere of Roadside Attraction's "Judy" at Samuel Goldwyn Theater on September 19, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images) /

The body of Naya Rivera was discovered near the surface of California’s Lake Piru early Monday morning.

Naya Rivera, who shot to stardom with the role of Santana Lopez on the hit Fox show Glee, has died. Five days after the young actress and singer went missing, authorities have identified her as the body that they found in Lake Piru early Monday morning. The Ventura County Sheriff’s office confirmed it was the 33 year old during a grim press conference held on Monday afternoon. An autopsy is scheduled to be performed later this week.

Sheriff Bill Ayub spoke with reporters, stating:

"“There was no indication of foul play, and no indication this was a suicide…Our hearts go out to Naya’s many friends and fans who have been holding out for the best.”"

Ayub went on to explain the extent of their search, which involved more than 50 personnel, along with a helicopter and divers, to locate Rivera. Rivera rented a boat with her 4-year-old son, Josey, on July 8 only to disappear, leaving her son alone in the boat when dock workers noticed her rental was overdue. A search-and-rescue mission began immediately and, unfortunately, turned into a recovery mission within 24 hours.

Though there was little likelihood of Rivera’s survival, fans and friends held out hope, with her former Glee co-star Heather Morris, who played Santana’s wife Brittany, even volunteering to help in the search effort. Morris was joined by other Glee cast members Chris Colfer (Kurt), Amber Riley (Mercedes), and Kevin McHale (Artie) at the lake with the Rivera family.

After Glee ended, Rivera published a tell-all memoir of her life called Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up in 2016. She had appeared as a guest voice on American Dad! and guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Rivera then landed a role on Lifetime’s soapy Devious Maids and became a recurring character on the YouTube dance series Step Up: High Water. She was set to star in the show’s upcoming third season after it was picked up by Starz.

Rivera used her platform to shine a light on various charitable organizations including GLAAD, Stand Up to Cancer,  and The Trevor Project. Her talent was undeniable the minute she stepped into the role of Glee‘s Santana Lopez, taking a recurring role and turning her into one of the most most memorable characters. Santana probably had the most character development over the course of the series, going from mean girl to loyal and caring friend with a coming out story in six seasons.

Rivera also had one helluva voice. As a tribute, here are a few of our favorite Santana performances.

River Deep, Mountain High

Possibly the best duet of the entire series is between Santana and Mercedes to this Tina Turner jam. This high-energy performance really set the bar high for the rest of the cast members. These two were powerhouses on their own, but when paired together, they were unstoppable. See also “The Boy Is Mine.”

Rumour Has It/Someone Like You

Remember in season three, when almost all of the female Glee club members left to start their own club because they were tired of being passed over for Lea Michele’s Rachel? Going by The Troubletones, this group is responsible for the most powerful mash-up of the entire show, melding two Adele power ballads into one. Although Brittany and Mercedes both had solos, it’s Santana’s soulful performance that that takes this performance to next level musical wizardry.


The beautiful relationship between Santana and Brittany was one of the most consistently satisfying relationships throughout Glee’s run. Starting off as just friends, the two eventually became lovers, helping Santana come to terms with her own sexuality. While the couple briefly broke up, Santana’s profound declaration of forever love for Brittany using the Taylor Swift ballad softened the blow. Luckily for us, they found their way back to each other and got married in season six.

Smooth Criminal

As demonstrated by every song on this list, Santana was the queen of taking iconic chart toppers and making them her own — none more so than in this confrontational Michael Jackson hit, sung in a duet with the dastardly Sebastian (Grant Gustin), following his “prank” attack on Blaine (Darren Criss). This fan favorite performance is amazing in every sense of the word. The artistry. The tension. The vocals. Simply one of the best performances ever.

If I Die Young

The death of cast member Cory Monteith was another tragedy in itself and, since he passed away in the middle of filming Glee, the death of his character Finn was written into the show. Santana, now living in New York City with Rachel and Kurt, returns to Lima for Finn’s funeral. As with every emotional situation on the show, the characters are encouraged to sing about their feelings. You may have been able to get through this episode without crying up until this point. However, when Santana belts out this heartbreaking rendition of The Band Perry’s ballad, be prepared to bawl your eyes out. When Santana cries, we cry.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Naya Rivera’s family, friends, and fans.