Demi Lovato praises Naya Rivera for her 'groundbreaking' LGBTQ role on 'Glee'

By Zach Harper

As Demi Lovato mourns the loss of Naya Rivera, she's also thanking the late star for what she did for LGBTQ+ people around the world, calling her Glee character "groundbreaking" in terms of representation.

On July 13, police announced they were confident they had found Naya's body in Lake Piru, five days after she went missing during a boating outing with her four-year-old son, Josey.

Demi took to Instagram to praise her fellow Glee cast member and friend. The 27-year-old pop star played Dani, the girlfriend of Naya's character, Santana Lopez, on the show.

"I'll forever cherish the opportunity," the 27-year-old wrote on Instagram of their acting together. "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."

Demi wasn't alone in praising Naya for her work in bringing queer women to the small screen. Plenty of fans pointed out the importance of Santana's character in their own lives when they said goodbye to Naya on July 13.

"Naya helped a whole generation of kids embrace their sexuality, learn to love themselves, & feel seen," one person tweeted. "She pushed for representation for the LGBTQ+ community and on top of that, she was incredibly talented and a loving mother to Josey. You will be dearly missed."

"Part of what feels so devastating about #NayaRivera news is that we were all waiting for her second act," writer Cole Delbyck tweeted on July 9, when news first broke that the star had gone missing. "She stole every last scene of Glee with ease due to her trademark snark – truly some of the best lines read in TV history.

"But she also gave us SO MUCH MORE and delivered, in my eyes, the finest performance of the series. As her character came to terms with her sexuality, Naya beautifully revealed that Santana could be vulnerable without giving up any of her power."

If you aren't familiar with Glee, Santana's character eventually realized she was in love with Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris), her best friend, and came out as gay in Season 3.

Naya's advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ people drew her lots of accolades while she was on Glee. She hosted the GLAAD Media Awards twice – one time with co-star Cory Monteith, who passed away in 2013. (Heartbreakingly, Naya's body was recovered on the seventh anniverary oThe annual ceremony recognizes outstanding contributions to the LGBTQ+ community.

She wasn't in the dark about the importance of her Glee role, pointing out in interviews that it was a very needed part at a very crucial time in history for LGBTQ+ people. Santana's character came out at a time that LGBTQ+ people's lives and loves were being increasingly highlighted on screen and their rights to things such as equal marriage and protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, were being won across the world.

"I have been son incredibly fortunate to portray a character on television that has meant so much to so many within the LGBTQ community," she wrote in Billboard in 2017. "Off screen, I am a woman who stands in support of equal rights for all. It has been one of the great blessings in my life to receive such love and touching stories as a result of my portrayal of Santana Lopez in Glee."

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