Naya Rivera, an icon and an ally to the LGBTQ+ community
Naya Rivera was an icon of our generation, especially for the LGBTQ+ community, myself included.
She was a true ally and she gave many young people hope.
This week has been filled with love for Naya, who died in a tragic accident last week. Looking at the messages and pictures that have been posted on social media from Naya's cast mates and friends, it's easy to see that she was an incredible person who was very loved.
One thing that has really stood out to me this week as a gay woman is how much this actress did for the gay community when she was playing Santana Lopez, a gay cheerleader in Glee.
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I can't believe it's been 10 years! I'm so blessed to have been a part of such an amazing show. I've made lifelong friends, grew in my craft, and made some of the most beautiful memories because of Glee. I will always be grateful to @20thcenturyfox, @mrrpmurphy, @bradfalchuk, Dana Walden, and Gary Newman for believing in my talents and giving me the opportunity to share them with the world. I love all of our fans who are beyond amazing and saw a little piece of themselves in each one of the characters. Being a part of something special makes you special and Glee will always have a special place in my heart. #glee10thanniversary #santanalopez #glee
Rivera played Santana, a popular cheerleader in an American high school who was in a relationship with fellow cheerleader Brittany. We can thank Glee and Naya for representing the gay community and introducing a young lesbian couple into households all over the world when no one else was doing it.
The relationship between Santana and Brittany would have been the first lesbian relationship I saw played out in a TV show and I remember feeling comfort when I watched the show.
Many young LGBTQ+ community members who watched Glee growing up would have found comfort in her character's struggles as a young girl falling in love and coming out in high school. Glee was always a really special show to me, it had a way of incorporating very real issues with a touch of comedy and music.
One episode in particular stands out when I think of Santana Lopez, the one when she comes out to her grandmother. The way she explains her feelings was so iconic and I'm sure had an impact on many young fans who were struggling with coming out to themselves and their parents.
In the scene she tells her grandma: “I love girls. The way I’m supposed to feel about boys… When I’m with Brittany, I finally understand what people are talking about when they talk about love. I’ve tried so hard to push this feeling away and keep it locked inside, but every day just feels like a war. And I walk around so mad at the world, but I’m really just fighting with myself. I don’t want to fight anymore. I’m just too tired. I have to just be me.”
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Not only was she happy to play the teenager when she was experimenting, but she wanted to explore the idea of this relationship evolving. Naya explained in an interview:
“It started off as this funny little thing, like “oh yeah she just randomly hooks up with her friend Brittany," I was kind of encouraging them to make it more serious and not play around with it ‘cause there are people out there that it’s not a joke to. It’s their real lives”.
Naya inspired a generation when no one else was doing it.