Demi Lovato pays emotional tribute to on-screen girlfriend Naya Rivera for helping closeted queer girls like her

Naya Rivera (R) and Demi Lovato. (FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)

Demi Lovato, who played Dani on season five of Glee, said Naya Rivera helped “queer girls” like her in an emotional tribute uploaded to Instagram Tuesday morning (July 14).

Across the last six days, Glee cast members have been plunged into paranoia after Rivera, 33, vanished during a trip to Lake Piru, California. Leaving her four-year-old son alone.

Investigators found the singer’s body near the surface of the water in the northeastern portion of the lake, ending a search that saw helicopters, boats, divers and dogs scour the lake for the star.

In a tribute to Rivera, who played the sassy and sultry cheerleader Santana Lopez, Lovato wrote about how much Rivera’s performance as a queer Latinx woman meant to her and the LGBT+ community.

Demi Lovato praises late Naya Rivera for ‘groundbreaking’ role that inspired ‘closeted queer girls’. 

She wrote: “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.”

Lovato, who played Lopez’s love interest, shared a touching slideshow of the pair’s scenes in the show together – the latest Glee star to pay tearful tributes to Rivera.

Naya Rivera: Former Glee star is missing and feared dead

Naya Rivera and her son, Josey Hollis. (Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)

She and her son, Josey, were the only people on a pontoon she rented when they went out on the water last week, according to a security video released by the Sheriff’s Office. The footage showed them arriving to the dock in a black SUV, walking down the marina and then heading towards the lake.

It was when the 20-foot boat did not return on time on July 8 that state agencies sounded the alarms. Officials launched a volley of divers, ATVs and helicopters to comb the body of water to find her.

Josey told detectives that he and his mother had been swimming in the lake when Rivera sacrificed herself to save him – she boosted him back onto the boat, turning around to see her disappear into the water, he said.