Glee Cast Remembers Naya Rivera with Tribute at the GLAAD Awards: 'Her Best Role Was Her Being a Mom'
The GLAAD Media Awards included a special moment to honor the late Naya Rivera Thursday night.
The Glee cast reunited to remember their friend and colleague Rivera, who died last summer in an accidental drowning.
"I don't have to tell you that this year was a tough, tough year," Demi Lovato said in her introduction of the cast. "A particular moment of heartbreak stands out for me: losing my friend Naya Rivera. I will always cherish the chance I got to play Naya's girlfriend Dani on Glee."
"The character Naya played, Santana Lopez, was groundbreaking for closeted queer girls, like I was at the time, and her ambition and accomplishments inspire Latina women all over the world," Lovato, 28, continued. "That's the power of a show like Glee. And LGBTQ youth, you have power, too."
Several members of the cast — including Amber Riley, Jacob Artist, Jane Lynch, Darren Criss, Matthew Morrison, Heather Morris, Harry Shum Jr., Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Vanessa Langies, Alex Newell, Lauren Potter, Jessalyn Gilsig, and Chris Colfer — convened over a video call to reminisce.
"There was always just so much more than met the eye with Naya," Criss, 34, said. Ushkowitz, 34, added, "she would make everybody laugh, on screen and off, but like the real win was if you made her laugh, because you knew you actually did something really funny."
Morrison, 42, reflected on what an "incredible sight" it was watching Rivera be a mom to her son Josey, whom she shared with ex Ryan Dorsey.
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"Her best role was her being a mom," Ushkowitz added. "That was the most fulfilling, to see her do that."
The group also spoke about the impact of Rivera's character of Santana — who came out on the show 10 years ago.
Rivera's mother, Yolanda Previtire, shared a statement read by Gilsig during the tribute that said her daughter would have been "honored" to receive the recognition.
"When Naya was told that Santana would be a lesbian she called me to let me know and I asked her how did she feel about that and she said 'I feel great about it!'" Previtire's statement said. "Little did we know that she would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community."
"Her desire was to always be an advocate to those who did not have a voice," Previtire continued. "I don't believe she realized how important she was to the world. I am grateful that my eldest daughter helped to change the landscape of how we view and see each other."
Ushkowitz then announced the winner for Outstanding Comedy Series (which Glee won twice at the GLAAD Awards during its run from 2009 to 2015): Schitt's Creek.
Other winners from the 2021 GLAAD Media Awards included Sam Smith for Outstanding Music Artist, We're Here for Outstanding Reality Series, The Not-too-Late Show with Elmo for Outstanding Children's Programming, "A Little Late with Lilly Singh" for Outstanding Variety or Talk Show Episode, Disclosure for Outstanding Documentary, and The Boys in the Band for Outstanding Film Limited Release, among several others.
PEOPLE also earned the award for Magazine Overall Coverage earlier this week.
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