Naya Marie Rivera January 12, 1987 – July 8, 2020. was an American actress, singer, and model. She began her career as a child actress and model, appearing in national television commercials before landing the role of Hillary Winston on the short-lived CBS sitcom The Royal Family (1991–1992) at the age of four and earning a nomination for a Young Artist Award at five. After a series of recurring television roles and then guest spots as a teenager, Rivera got her breakthrough role in 2009 as lesbian cheerleader Santana Lopez on the Fox television series Glee (2009–2015). For the role, she received critical acclaim and various awards, including a SAG Award and ALMA Award, as well as earning two Grammy Award and one Brit Award nominations.
Rivera was signed to Columbia Records as a solo musical artist in 2011 and – despite never releasing a studio album – released a single, “Sorry”, in 2013. She won two ALMA Awards as a music artist. On the big screen, Rivera made her debut in the horror film At the Devil’s Door (2014) before playing a supporting role in the comedy Mad Families (2017). Besides performing, Rivera championed various charitable causes, particularly for LGBT+ rights, immigrants’ rights, and women’s rights. She also spoke out against racism, especially in entertainment. Her personal life garnered significant press and media attention throughout her career, and in 2016 she published a memoir titled Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up. Because of her varied roles across her three decades as a performer, Rivera is seen as having been a vanguard of Afro-Latinx and queer representation on television.
On July 8, 2020, Rivera drowned at Lake Piru, near Santa Clarita, California, while swimming with her four-year-old son Josey, who was found alone on their rented boat. Her body was recovered from the lake on the morning of July 13, following a five-day search. At the time of her death, she was between seasons of the television show Step Up, in which she played the female lead.