Glee stars pay touching tributes to ‘fearless, hilarious and wild’ Naya Rivera, tragically dead at just 33

Glee star Naya Rivera

Tributes have been paid to Glee star Naya Rivera, after her death in a tragic accident on a lake in California.

The body of the actress was recovered from Lake Piru on Monday, five days after she disappeared while swimming in the lake.

Officials believe the boat may have began to drift while Rivera and her four-year-old son were swimming, with the actress managing to get him to safety but unable to save herself.

Rivera is best known for playing the fan favourite lesbian cheerleader Santana Lopez in Ryan Murphy’s musical series Glee.

As news of her death was confirmed, tributes have flooded in from her former castmates on Twitter and Instagram.

Tributes to Naya Rivera for ‘groundbreaking’ Glee role.

Demi Lovato, who played Rivera’s fifth-season love interest Dani on Glee, 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 (at the time) queer girls like me, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world.”

Paying tribute, Amber Riley wrote: “My favourite 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.”

Naya Rivera and Amber perform a duet on Glee

Naya Rivera and Amber perform a duet on Glee (FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)

Darren Criss added: “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 humour never ceased to bring a smile to my face.

“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.”

Jane Lynch wrote: “Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family.”

‘She spoke truth to power with fearlessness’, cast members say.

Chris Colfer wrote: “How can you convey all your love and respect for someone in one post? How can you summarise a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone?

“If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t. Her brilliance and humour 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 honour and a suit of armour.

“Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be. Sending all my love to her wonderful family and her beautiful son.”

Ventura County Sheriffs Search and Rescue dive team located a body Monday morning in Lake Piru

Ventura County Sheriffs Search and Rescue dive team located a body Monday morning in Lake Piru (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Jenna Ushkowitz wrote: “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, humour, 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.”

Kevin McHale: ‘Naya had such a gigantic presence, a void that will now be felt by all of us.’

Kevin McHale wrote: “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 memorise 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.

Naya Rivera and Kevin McHale on Glee.

Naya Rivera and Kevin McHale on Glee. (FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)

“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.”

Glee lead Lea Michele, who had a well-documented fall-out with Rivera, posted a black-and-white photo of her to Instagram, alongside one of Glee star Cory Monteith, who also died under tragic circumstances 11 years ago.

The show’s producers said: “Naya Rivera was a fierce talent with so much more to do and this is such a terrible tragedy. We are forever grateful for the indelible contribution she made to Glee, from the first episode to the last. Our hearts are broken and our thoughts go out to Naya’s family, friends and young son.”