Naya Rivera was born and raised around Los Angeles and started her acting career as a young child. Her first role came when she was just 4 years old on the 1991 CBS sitcom The Royal Family.

Rivera continued to star on numerous television series throughout her childhood and teenage years, including roles on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Even Stevens, before landing her first adult role on Glee

Glee: Naya's role of "Santana"

Rivera auditioned for Glee after becoming a fan of co-creator Ryan Murphy's work on the show Nip Tuck. To prepare for her audition Naya channeled her own high school experience and watched Mean Girls.

Her hard work paid off and Rivera won the part of "Santana", a cold-hearted, vicious cheerleader. 

After the first half of season one, Rivera's character was given regular status on the show and in season 2 she performed her first solo on the episode "The Rocky Horror Glee Show".

'Glee' Quiz


In what year did 'Glee' first air on TV?

"Santana" started to win the audience over after coming out as a lesbian in the second season and showing her softer side. Rivera received lots of praise for her role as her character developed and was praised by numerous media outlets, including E! and TV Guide.

What Happened To Glee star Naya Rivera?

After her time on Glee, Rivera went on to star in other series and films, making her film debut in 2014 with At the Devil's Door, and starting in 2018 had been starring as "Collette Jones" on YouTube Red series Step Up: High Water

Naya had an adorable 4-year-old son, Josey, from her first marriage with actor Ryan Dorsey. Tragically, Naya drowned in a California lake after saving her son while the two of them were out on a boat together for the day. She passed away on July 8, 2020. 

Facts About Naya Rivera

  • Naya was a baby model for Kmart and starred in many of their commercials
  • Fame runs in the family! Her little brother, Mychal Rivera is an NFL football player for the Oakland Raiders, and her younger sister, Nickayla Rivera is a runway model
  • Naya once auditioned for American Idol but was cut in the first round
  • Naya was engaged to singer Big Sean in 2013, but shortly after the pair ended their engagement