'Glee' Cast & Creators Mourn Naya Rivera: Heather Morris, Grant Gustin & More Pay Tribute

Naya Rivera Glee Cast Tributes
Adam Rose / © Fox / Courtesy: Everett Collection

On Monday, July 13, five days after Naya Rivera went missing while out out on a lake with her son, her body was found.

The former Glee star died at the age of 33, after her son, Josey, was found alone on a boat on Lake Piru in California on July 8. A search and recovery, then rescue, operation began immediately, and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department confirmed "there was no indication of foul play" or  that "this was a suicide" at the press conference Wednesday after she was found.

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"We had lucked into finding one of the most talented, special stars we would ever have the pleasure of working with. Naya could act, she could dance, and she could sing (could she ever sing!) She could nail a joke as well as she could crush you with an emotional scene. She could move between being scary tough and deeply vulnerable with ease. She was a joy to write for, a joy to direct and a joy to be around," Glee creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan said in a statement.

They went on to note that while the actress who only had a few lines in the pilot went on to have several iconic performances during the show's run, "her greatest Glee legacy is probably the humor and humanity that she brought to" Santana and Brittany's (Heather Morris) relationship. "Naya understood what 'Brittana' meant to the many young women who were seeing themselves represented on television for the first time. Naya always made sure that Santana's love for Brittany was expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions," they continued. "Naya was always moved by the girls who reached out to her to tell her how much Santana and Brittany's love affected them. Naya's obligation to them — and to all of her fans — was obvious. She had the rare combination of humility and endless confidence in her talent."

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"She was warm and caring and fiercely protective of the rest of the cast. She was tough and demanding. She was fun. She was kind. She was generous," the creators added. They're creating a college fund for her son.

Her former costars have posted tributes to Rivera (who played Santana Lopez on the popular Fox musical dramedy) to social media, just like they had when asking fans to join them prayer when she initially went missing.

Heather Morris (Brittany Pierce, Santana's wife) looked back on their friendship in a message alongside photos of her sons and Josey. "We started out as the closest friends and then like all new things, we went through a bit of a rocky phase. However, we stuck by each other’s side and created the most beautiful friendship built out of love and understanding," she wrote before detailing the last time she saw Rivera in person.

"You constantly taught me lessons about grief, about beauty and poise, about being strong, resilient and about not giving a f**k (but still somehow respectful)," she continued. "Yet, the utmost important lesson I learned most of all from you was being a consistent and loving friend. You were the first to check in, the first to ask questions, the first to listen..you cherished our friendship and I never took that for granted.

 

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We started out as the closest friends and then like all new things, we went through a bit of a rocky phase. However, we stuck by each other’s side and created the most beautiful friendship built out of love and understanding. The last I had the chance to see you in person, I had left oranges outside our home for you to take. I wanted to say hi through the window but my phone didn’t ring when you called (which it never does, f*cking T-Mobile), so instead you and Josey left two succulents on our doorstep as a thank you. I planted those succulents and I look at them everyday and think of you. I still listen to your EP on repeat because from the moment I heard it, it struck me and I always wished the world knew more of your voice. You sent me over 5 dozen SnapChat videos when you and Josey woke up in the morning and I kick myself that I didn’t save one of them. You always shared recipes and I admired your love for food. We vowed to spend every Easter together, even though Covid stole this last one from us. You are and always will be the strongest and most resilient human being I know, and I vowed to carry that with me as I continue to live my life. You constantly taught me lessons about grief, about beauty and poise, about being strong, resilient and about not giving a fuck (but still somehow respectful ). Yet, the utmost important lesson I learned most of all from you was being a consistent and loving friend. You were the first to check in, the first to ask questions, the first to listen..you cherished our friendship and I never took that for granted. We never took photos together because we mutually hated taking pictures...our relationship meant more than proof. I have countless pictures of our babies playing, because we shared that kind of pride and joy. So I’m showing the world a photo of our little goof balls for you, because I know that meant more than anything and they remind me of you and I. I speak to you everyday because I know you’re still with me and even though I’m feeling greedy that we don’t get more time together, I cherish every moment we had and hold it close to my heart.

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Lea Michele (Rachel Berry) shared photos of Rivera, late on and off-screen boyfriend Cory Monteith (Finn Hudson) — who died on the same day seven years ago — and the cast to her Instagram stories.

Lea Michele Naya Rivera Cory Monteith Tributes

(Lea Michele/Instagram)

"Her brilliance and humor were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly. She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness," Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel) wrote alongside a photo of the two of them. "She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be."

 

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How can you convey all your love and respect for someone in one post? How can you summarize a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone? If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t. Her brilliance and humor were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly. She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness. She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be. 💔 Sending all my love to her wonderful family and her beautiful son.

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"My favorite duet partner," Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones) wrote.

 

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My favorite duet partner. I love you. I miss you. I don’t have words right now, just lots of feelings. Rest In Peace Angel, and know that your family will never have to worry about anything.

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"I was constantly moved by the degree to which she took care of her family, and how she looked out for her friends," Darren Criss (Blaine Anderson) wrote. "She showed up for me on numerous occasions where she didn’t have to, and I was always so grateful for her friendship then, as I certainly am now.⁣"

 

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She was bold. She was outrageous. She was a LOT of fun.⁣ ⁣ Naya made me laugh like no one else on that set. I always said it while we were working together and I’ve maintained it ever since. Her playful, wicked sense of humor never ceased to bring a smile to my face.⁣ ⁣ She played by her own rules and was in a class of her own. She had a brashness about her that I couldn’t help but be enchanted by. I also always loved her voice, and savored every chance I got to hear her sing. I think she had more talent than we would have ever been able to see.⁣ ⁣ I was constantly moved by the degree to which she took care of her family, and how she looked out for her friends. She showed up for me on numerous occasions where she didn’t have to, and I was always so grateful for her friendship then, as I certainly am now.⁣ ⁣ And even as I sit here, struggling to comprehend, gutted beyond description- the very thought of her cracks me up and still brings a smile to my face. That was Naya’s gift. And it's a gift that will never go away. ⁣ ⁣ Rest in peace you wild, hilarious, beautiful angel.

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"What a force you were," Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester) wrote on Twitter.

"She was my first friend and ally on our show," Dianna Agron (Quinn) wrote on Instagram. "To work with her was a gift. There was a great deal to absorb — her work ethic, her fearlessness, her talent — supreme. Naya had a laugh that would envelop you and hold you captive. She was mesmerizing. That twinkle in her eye, her luminous smile. Naya lead with truth, humor, wit. I loved her for all of these reasons."

 

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⁣⁣ Naya and I fell into stride with such ease, she was my first friend and ally on our show. In the pilot, our characters came and went with such swiftness. Our enthusiasm brimmed with all of the unknown. We tried to grasp what the other cast members must be feeling as we were working in such separate manners. We dared to dream. What if this show worked? Wouldn’t that be something? Something was brimming, it was palpable. And thank god it worked. Naya’s magnetic talent was going to be unleashed, we just didn’t know it yet. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I’ve been revisiting Naya’s performances on our show and it has brought me great joy. To work with her was a gift. There was a great deal to absorb - her work ethic, her fearlessness, her talent - supreme. Naya had a laugh that would envelop you and hold you captive. She was mesmerizing. That twinkle in her eye, her luminous smile. Naya lead with truth, humor, wit. I loved her for all of these reasons. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I loved her sense of curiosity and wanderlust. I was lucky enough to be her travel partner for some of my most favorite adventures. As I write this, I’m grinning with swelling memories of a spontenaous 36 hour excursion - one might even say diversion - to Paris. With Naya, everything was possible and would often simply unfold before us, almost magically.⁣⁣ On this particular jaunt, within ten minutes of checking into our hotel, we found ourselves strolling the halls of L'École des Beaux-Arts, sipping wine from paper cups with students showcasing their latest work. It was fantastic. We were united in our commitment to discovery. And there was always a list of cleverly curated ideas in Naya’s back pocket, should we need it. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I cannot make sense of this tremendous loss. I will hold onto her and these memories for the rest of time, alongside our Glee family. Please hold space for her, her family, her beautiful boy. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ In absolute, loving memory.

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See tributes from Demi Lovato (Dani), Harry Shum Jr. (Mike Chang), Kevin McHale (Artie Abrams), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina Cohen), Alex Newell (Unique Adams), Melissa Benoist (Marley Rose), Grant Gustin (Sebastian Smythe), and more below.

 

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My Naya, my Snixxx, my Bee. I legitimately can not imagine this world without you. • 7 years ago today, she and I were together in London when we found out about Cory. We were so far away, but I was so thankful that we had each other. A week ago today we were talking about running away to Hawaii. This doesn’t make sense. And I know it probably never will. • She was so independent and strong and the idea of her not being here is something I cannot comprehend. She was the single most quick-witted person I’ve ever met, with a steel-trap memory that could recall the most forgettable conversations from a decade ago verbatim. The amount of times she would memorize all of those crazy monologues on Glee the morning of and would never ever mess up during the scene… I mean, she was clearly more talented than the rest of us. She was the most talented person I’ve ever known. There is nothing she couldn’t do and I’m furious we won’t get to see more. • I’m thankful for all the ways in which she made me a better person. She taught me how to advocate for myself and to speak up for the things and people that were important to me, always. I’m thankful for the times I grew an ab muscle from laughing so hard at something she said. I’m thankful she became like family. I’m thankful that my dad happened to have met her weeks before I did and when I got Glee, he told me to “look out for a girl named Naya because she seemed nice.” Well dad, she was nice and she became one of my favorite people ever. • If you were fortunate enough to have known her, you’ll know that her most natural talent of all was being a mother. The way that she loved her boy, it was truly Naya at her most peaceful. I’m thankful that Naya got that beautiful little boy got back on that boat. I’m thankful he will have a strong family around him to protect him and tell him about his incredible mom. I just hope more than anything that her family is given the space and time to come to terms with this. For having such tiny body, Naya had such a gigantic presence, a void that will now be felt by all of us - those of us who knew her personally and the millions of you who loved her through your TVs. I love you, Bee.

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There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don't believe I'll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel but... Naya, you were a ⚡️ force and everyone who got to be around you knew it and felt the light and joy you exuded when you walked into a room. You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors. I was lucky enough to share so many laughs, martinis and secrets with you. I can not believe I took for granted that you'd always be here. Our friendship went in waves as life happens and we grow, so I will not look back and regret but know I love you and promise to help the legacy of your talent, humor, light and loyalty live on. You are so loved. You deserved the world and we will make sure Josey and your family feel that everyday. I miss you already.

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My heart is broken.. I truly had soo much fun filming this little segment... we both clearly didn’t wanna be there but made the most of it! Naya was truly a star.. one day as I was coming out of hair and make up I saw her sitting at base camp and she said “Alex... when you go on tour can you please say ‘everybody say heeeyy Ms. Newell’’ just for me!” I said absolutely we laughed and had a short little convo about life and music.. I’ll cherish that moment for ever!! I watched her preform with such power, brilliance, and honesty.. While being a light as a person! The love she had for her family and friends was always clear! She will truly be missed! Josey you are loved by all the people who love your mother! My thoughts and prayers are with her family! Rest Sweet Angel..

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RIP Naya Rivera. I’ll forever cherish the opportunity to play your girlfriend on Glee. The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted queer girls (like me at the time) and open queer girls, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world. My heart goes out to your loved ones at this time.. ❤️🕊

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She has not left my mind this last week. It’s difficult to find words. There was an undeniable beauty that she radiated inside and out, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that I got to witness that up close even for the short period of time that I did. I was so intimidated by her, yet she had a way of disarming that just made you want to be around her, hear what she had to say (because it would undoubtedly be the sharpest and most real thing you would hear all day). She was kind and open to me when she didn’t have to be, when I was a naive, clueless and insecure newcomer. Bravely authentic, genuinely kind, incredibly talented and deeply loved by so many. Thinking of her family and loved ones. Rest In Peace, Naya.

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Naya was insanely talented, breathtakingly gorgeous, and one of the wittiest people I’ve ever met, but the legacy she left behind for me is her kindness. I joined the cast of Glee in the third season and as the newcomer, I was intimidated and terrified. The cast was already such a tight-knit group who had been working incredibly hard together for over three years to make it a hit show and I never expected any of them to have time for me. To my surprise, Naya, one of the most beloved by the rest of the cast (and the entire world), showed me instant warmth and kindness. She invited me to parties and gatherings and was always there to give advice. She was a superstar who had nothing to gain from being kind to the new girl, but she was and that changed this new girl’s entire experience on that show. I will forever be grateful to that beautiful human. My heart goes out to her family and her sweet boy. ❤️

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Remembering beautiful @nayarivera today. Getting to sing in this trio with her was such a special moment. I am in utter shock and disbelief that someone so full of life and passion and talent is no longer with us. And completely heart broken for her family. 💔

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Naya was a such a powerful force, in both her personal life and in her work. While so many of us were trying to find our voice, Naya’s was clear and resolute. When she spoke, you would embrace every last word. And when she sang, she would let you into her soul. Glee acted as only a snippet of her life that we all, thankfully, had the honor of witnessing. But Naya would shine brightest when surrounded by her wonderful family. A common passion we both shared recently was that of our roles as parents. Naya was fervent about motherhood and had a steadfast love for Josey. It is that powerful love that ensures us that her story does not end here. I’m confident that her positive influence will be continuously felt, and that her beautiful spirit will carry on in the lives of so many. I’m devastated by this immense loss. This week has been long and trying with much praying and hope. I find some solace in closure, but the pain I feel for her and her family cannot be measured. Rest in peace, keep shining down on us with your bright light.

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This loss is truly unimaginable. As many people have stated, Naya was a force. I was intimidated by her talent and presence on set, but she was always so kind and welcoming to me. So many of my Glee memories on and off set have Naya in them. She was one of a kind. My heart breaks for her family and friends. I’ll always keep Naya in my heart and remember her for the strong, talented and compassionate person she was to me in the brief time I got to spend with her. Sending so much strength and love to her family and everyone who’s heart is breaking over this tragic loss.

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