Naya Marie Rivera (born January 12, 1987; disappeared July 8, 2020) is an American actress, model, and singer. 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 at the age of four (1991–1992). For the part she received a nomination for a Young Artist Award. After a series of recurring television roles and guest spots as a teenager, Rivera received her breakthrough role as an adult as Santana Lopez on the Fox television series Glee (2009–2015). For the role she received nominations for numerous awards. She was signed to Columbia Records as a solo artist in 2011 and released a single in 2013, "Sorry", featuring rapper Big Sean.
Rivera made her feature film debut as Vera in the horror film At the Devil's Door (2014). Beginning in 2015, she had a recurring role as Blanca on the third season of the Lifetime television series Devious Maids.
On July 8, 2020, she was declared a missing person after her four-year-old son was found alone in their rental boat at Lake Piru, near Santa Clarita, California. The following day, Ventura County Sheriff's Office officials reported that Rivera was presumed dead and that they would be focusing efforts on recovering her body.
1 Early life
2.1 1991–2008: Career beginnings
2.2 2009–11: Breakthrough and acclaim with Glee
2.3 2011–present: Musical solo debut and film debut
3 Personal life
3.1 Relationships and family
4 Public image
9 Awards and nominations
10 See also
12 External links
Rivera was born in Santa Clarita, California, on January 12, 1987, and raised in Santa Clarita's Valencia neighborhood. She has lived in or around Los Angeles for most of her life. She is of African-American, German, and Puerto Rican descent. Her parents are Yolanda, a former model, and George Rivera. Her younger brother is former NFL tight end Mychal Rivera, and her younger sister is runway model Nickayla Rivera. At 8 or 9 months old, Rivera began to be represented by the same talent agent as her mother, who had moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling.
1991–2008: Career beginnings
Rivera appeared in commercials for Kmart as a baby, but her first significant acting job was at age 4 when she appeared as Hillary Winston in The Royal Family sitcom in 1991. The show received positive reviews and high ratings initially, but it was canceled soon after star Redd Foxx suffered a sudden heart attack on set. Rivera received a Young Artist Award nomination for her performance in the series.
Between 1992 and 2002, she had small roles in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, Live Shot, Baywatch, Smart Guy, The Jersey, House Blend, Even Stevens and The Master of Disguise. In 2002, she also appeared in the music video for B2K's "Why I Love You". She then had a guest appearance on The Bernie Mac Show in 2002, before returning to the show for ten episodes throughout its five-season run. She was later featured in episodes of 8 Simple Rules and CSI: Miami. In between auditions and roles, Rivera worked jobs as a telemarketer, a nanny and a greeter at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. In 2006 and 2007, Rivera took part in a production of Mark E. Swinton's play, U Don't Know Me: The Musical, both in Los Angeles and when the production was taken on national tour. Rivera auditioned for an unspecified season of American Idol during the San Francisco auditions, she was cut in the first round.
2009–11: Breakthrough and acclaim with Glee
In 2009, Rivera was cast as Santana Lopez, a high school cheerleader, on Fox's musical comedy series Glee, about a high school glee club. Rivera's character comes off as a cold-hearted and vicious cheerleader, who often shows her softer side to fellow cheerleader Brittany (played by Heather Morris). Rivera auditioned for the opportunity "to sing, dance and act all in the same show," and because she was a fan of co-creator Ryan Murphy's previous work on Nip/Tuck. Rivera drew on her own high school experience of unpopularity to prepare for the role, as well as watching films such as Mean Girls to "really get in the zone and feel like a bitchy sophomore." She described Santana as "your typical high school cheerleader, for the most part," explaining: "She's really mean and loves boys. She's really witty so I love playing her", as well as characterizing her as "a bit of a bad girl" who is "really snarky and always has these really witty one-liners she throws out there." Rivera enjoyed the fact Santana is competitive and headstrong, as they shared those traits, but disliked Santana's mean streak. She found the show's pacing challenging, especially the dancing, and commented in June 2009 that her most memorable moment on Glee was performing the Cheerios' glee club audition piece, "I Say a Little Prayer". Santana played a more prominent part in the last nine episodes of Glee's first season, with Rivera commenting at the time: "Santana's been wreaking havoc with people's boyfriends and people's babies and teachers – she's the high school terror, and she's going to continue to be the villain."
Rivera at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con
After having her screen time and musical involvement increased in the second half of the first season, Rivera was promoted to series regular status as of the beginning of the second season. She was given her first solo in the fifth episode of season two, "The Rocky Horror Glee Show", and performed several others as the season progressed. During the second season, Rivera's role in the show was radically changed when it was revealed that her character was a lesbian. Rivera portrayed Santana struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, with her love for her best friend, and with her inability to come out of the closet. She received favorable reviews for her performance. In January 2011, Rivera appeared in a Funny or Die parody of "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang", called "Nuthin' But a Glee Thang", which had been co-written by her Glee co-star Heather Morris.
In July 2011, Rivera was nominated for two ALMA Awards, in the categories of Favorite Female Music Artist and Favorite TV Actress – Leading Role in a Comedy. Rivera received a great amount of critical praise for both her acting and her singing performances in the latter part of season two and the beginning of season three. As 2011 ended, she or her character were on many "Best Of" lists, including HitFix's 25 Breakout Stars of 2011, TV Guide's Best Performances of 2011, MTV's Best TV Characters of 2011, as well as others. In the second half of the series' third season, she was given the opportunity to do a duet with Ricky Martin, and worked with Gloria Estefan, who was cast as Santana's mother. As the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards approached, Rivera was listed by many critics and media outlets as deserving of a nomination; The Hollywood Reporter included her in their "Emmy 2012: Supporting Players" photo shoot, and Rivera was also honored by E!, HitFix, TV Guide, and others. She was also chosen by the TV Academy to take part in a promotional video for the upcoming awards ceremony.
2011–present: Musical solo debut and film debut
In May 2011, it was announced that Rivera had signed a deal with Columbia Records to produce a solo album. The musical duo 2Cellos released the second single to their second album, a cover of Muse's "Supermassive Black Hole" featuring vocals by Rivera. She also starred in the music video for the song. Her debut single "Sorry", featuring rapper Big Sean, was released as a digital download on September 17, 2013. However, production on the album "kind of halted" due to "so many things going on," Rivera stated, "Politics got involved so I've been putting it on the back burner; there are a lot of things that I'm doing that I'm excited about."
On May 1, 2014, it was reported that Columbia had dropped Rivera because her debut single had underperformed. Rivera's representative released a statement to news outlets stating that any claims were falsified, and that legal action would be potentially taken to ensure Rivera's creditability; at the time of publishing, Columbia Records could not be reached for comment. Rivera subsequently worked on an immigrant project with Guillermo Diaz, directing a short film PSA about the effect of immigration on children and their parents. While Diaz's part is about telling the stories of young dreamers and the fear they have of their mothers being deported, Rivera's PSA is about the problems immigrants deal with or face in the United States.
At the Devil's Door (previously titled Home), Rivera's debut feature film, premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas on March 9, 2014. The film has been described by its director, Nicholas McCarthy, as "a unique kind of genre film I think, almost like a Rubik's cube of a horror movie." The film was released through video on demand on August 8, 2014, and theatrically released on September 12, 2014. The film continued to play at festivals, receiving mixed reviews. Rivera's acting, however, received praise. Edgar Chaput, of Sound on Sight, called Rivera "the standout... the most natural performance in the film," while Marsha McCreadie, of Film Journal, wrote, "At the Devil's Door doesn't pick up steam until late in the story, when Rivera carries the narrative," and Jeremy Kibler of Diabolique magazine wrote, "Coming primarily from a TV background and fun to watch as sharp-tongued lesbian cheerleader Santana on Glee, the eye-grabbing Naya Rivera adjusts to the big screen with ease in front of the camera. Her Vera is headstrong and rigid but cut with just the right amount of vulnerability."
In 2015, Rivera portrayed the recurring role of Blanca Alvarez in the third season of Lifetime's drama series Devious Maids. She wrote a memoir titled Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up in September 2016. In 2018, it was announced that she would be taking the role of school administrator Collette Jones in the YouTube Red series Step Up: High Water. The series moved to Starz in May 2020, and Rivera was announced to be continuing her role; at the time, the third season was in production, but no timetable for its release was given.
Relationships and family
Rivera began dating recording artist Big Sean in April 2013. They announced their engagement in October 2013, but ended their relationship in April 2014. As of 2014, Rivera and her family reside in Los Angeles.
Soon after her split from Big Sean, Rivera began dating actor Ryan Dorsey. They had previously dated four years earlier and were married in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on July 19, 2014, the original date set for her wedding to Big Sean. On February 24, 2015, Rivera announced that she and Dorsey were expecting their first child. Their son, Josey Hollis was born in September 2015. In her memoir, Rivera revealed that she had an abortion in 2010, shortly after splitting from Dorsey, due to the fact that her career was taking off with the success of Glee. In November 2016, she filed for divorce after two years of marriage, but called off the separation in October 2017. In late November 2017, Rivera was arrested and charged in Kanawha County, West Virginia with misdemeanor domestic battery against Dorsey after she allegedly hit him in the head during an altercation over their child. Her bond was set at $1,000, and she was released and picked up from the courthouse by her father-in-law. She subsequently refiled for divorce in December 2017. Later that month, Rivera and Dorsey agreed to temporarily share joint custody of their son. In January 2018, the domestic battery charge was dismissed at the request of Dorsey, who "notified both the prosecution and the defense counsel that he was no longer seeking prosecution and has confirmed he was never at any time injured by the conduct of Ms. Rivera." On June 14, 2018, Rivera and Dorsey finalized their divorce.
In January 2015, during her appearance as a guest host on The View, Rivera alluded to her possible bisexuality. Rosie O'Donnell remarked on a recent study that showed that bisexual women were more likely to have mental health problems than lesbians, to which Rivera replied, "Rosie, no wonder I'm crazy. This just solves it all."
Rivera dedicates her time to various charitable organizations including GLAAD, Stand Up to Cancer, The Trevor Project, The Elephant Project, and The Sunshine Foundation. In 2011, Rivera hosted the San Francisco GLAAD Media Awards. In November 2011, Rivera and her Glee co-star Amber Riley performed at the 10th Annual Celebration of Dreams Event for the Dream Foundation. In December 2011, she was named the newest celebrity spokesperson for Proactiv. On March 24, 2012, she co-hosted the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York with Glee co-star Cory Monteith. Along with John Stamos, both hosts auctioned off kisses to the crowd, raising $15,000. This tradition started with Rivera when she hosted the 22nd Annual Media Awards in San Francisco.
Rivera has graced the covers of several magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Rolling Stone, FHM, Complex, Glow, Prestige, The Hollywood Reporter, Cosmo for Latinas, Latina, Fit Pregnancy and Baby and Galore. She was selected by People en Español for their 2012 '50 Most Beautiful' list, and in May 2012 she made FHM's 100 Sexiest Women list, coming in at number 39. She made the Maxim Hot 100 list for the third year in a row, moving up sixteen spots to number 27. On the 2012 AfterEllen Hot 100 list, she was listed number 1. In May 2013, Rivera posed nude in an issue of Allure magazine. Rivera was ranked at number one on AfterEllen.com's "Hot 100" list in 2011 and 2012, and at number three in 2013.
In October 2012, Rivera was featured in the third episode of MTV's series This Is How I Made It. In the episode, Rivera recounted her childhood career as an actress and a model, as well as the lean times that came between the age of 16 and 21, leading up to her big break of being cast on Glee. In December 2012, Rivera attended the annual Trevor Live! event, where she performed a cover of the song "Silent Night". She starred in an M&Ms commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013 as the girl to whom "Red" is referring.
On July 8, 2020, Rivera was declared a missing person after her four-year-old son, Josey, was found alone in Rivera's rented boat at Lake Piru. The search for both Rivera and Josey had begun at 4:00 pm PDT, three hours after they left the dock, when their rental was over. Another boater discovered Josey alone, asleep on the boat with his life jacket on, at around 5:00 pm. The boat was in the Narrows, an area at the north of the lake that can be quite deep and windy. An adult life jacket was found on board, along with Rivera's identification. Josey is said to have told investigators that his mother was swimming and could not make it back to the boat. He also stated that his mother was not wearing a life jacket. Lake Piru is known locally for strong, unpredictable currents and whirlpools that have caused the deaths of swimmers in the past. Rivera's vehicle, a black Mercedes G Wagon, was found in the parking lot.
The Ventura County Sheriff's Department suspended the search and rescue operation that evening and resumed again the following day. The lake was closed to the public, with dive teams from across the region taking part in the search. On July 9, the sheriff's department confirmed to NBC that Rivera was presumed dead and that rescue efforts would now shift to recovery efforts. On the first day of the search, efforts had been made on land to determine if Rivera had made it out of the lake; a lack of evidence and Josey telling officers that he saw his mother disappear underwater led them to change the search to recovery. Their spokesman stated it may be some time before any body is found, as poor visibility makes it difficult for search and recovery crews to see more than a foot ahead underwater. On July 10, the sheriff's office released CCTV footage of Rivera and her son arriving in the parking lot and leaving the dock on the boat, and the number of divers involved was cut from around 100 to around 40. The sheriff's department explained that the visibility was so poor it was more probable Rivera would be found by using sonar devices. The spokesperson added that the lake would be drained by 65 feet (20 m) in August for maintenance, something that had been previously planned. As well as dive teams and sonar, sniffer dogs were taken out on the lake.
On July 11 and 12, Rivera's parents, brother, ex-husband Ryan Dorsey and Glee co-star Heather Morris joined the search team at the lake. The sheriff's office dissuaded more civilians from joining the search because of dangerous terrain. They restated that they were searching on land as well as in the lake. On July 11, the sheriff's office had announced that other counties and a private contractor were assisting with the search, and another Glee co-star, Lea Michele, deleted her Twitter account after receiving "trolling" messages about the disappearance; other stars of the show chastised these people, saying the focus should be on Rivera and not on the response of other people.On July 13, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department announced that a body had been found at Lake Piru.
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