Recalling Naya Rivera: a tough talent and a trailblazer for LGBTQ+ representation

The ‘Glee’ star leaves behind a legacy that is enormously powerful and a generation of queer fans to whom she offered hope

Today, the entire world recalls Naya Rivera. Most commonly known for her breakout part as Santana Lopez in Glee, the actress, model and singer died aged simply 33, at Lake Piru in Southern Ca.

Rivera ended up being a hugely talented performer, whom brought joy along with her razor- razor- sharp feeling of humour to numerous things she did. From the parody anti-yeast disease commercial that she filmed as an element of her part in Glee, to her change being a visitor judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Naya Rivera had been a force of comedy in specific. As well as people in the community that is LGBTQ+ many will even keep in mind Rivera as an ally within the truest feeling of the phrase, whom represented us on tv whenever few other programs had been prepared to get here.

Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez in ‘Glee’. Credit: Alamy

Santana Lopez’s on-screen love with fellow cheerleader Brittany had been genuinely groundbreaking – for most young adults growing up as Glee aired, Rivera played the very first lesbian character that they had ever seen on television, complete end. It was in the belated noughties, lower than ten years following the ending of Section 28, which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in British schools. Gay wedding wasn’t yet that is legal. The ever that is first of a lesbian intercourse scene within the reputation for tv were held simply six years prior to the very first period of Glee, and in accordance with Amber Benson (whom played Tara on Buffy The Vampire Slayer) obtaining the system to also consent to a same-sex kiss previously ended up being “like pulling teeth”. This arrived at any given time whenever Buffy and Spike had been merrily shagging their means around secluded graveyards – there is a huge and clear disparity between the way in which right and homosexual partners had been depicted into the news.

Meanwhile, you might easily count the quantity of queer ladies featuring on main-stream shows on one side. In the united kingdom we’d Emily and Naomi from Skins, plus in the usa, people had Ellen Degeneres, and Samantha Jones experimenting for two Intercourse together with City episodes because of the heavily stereotyped artist that is brazilian Diega Reyes.

Naya Rivera had been a way to obtain convenience for most queer fans of ‘Glee’. Credit: Getty

And where there is larger media representation, it absolutely was frequently limited by more niche LGBTQ+ shows such as the L term, Sugar Rush, and Lip provider – hugely important programs, however with a difference that is key we needed to earnestly look for them down. These programs had been additionally predominantly white. Queerness ended up being a thing that ended up being repressed and whispered about into the conventional; as soon as we saw ourselves reflected, it absolutely was frequently belated at night with all the amount refused, one little finger anxiously poised on the television remote’s energy key all of the time. Glee, having said that, had on average 10.11 million audiences at its top in appeal. Besides attaining the queer those who perhaps required a character like Santana probably the most, it reached their moms and dads, buddies, and grand-parents – all viewing the show close to them regarding the couch. As a new homosexual kid who was simply scared shitless during the concept of ever being released, Rivera’s character provided me personally genuine hope.

And Santana – the hilarious expert in smarting one-liners and ponytail flicks that she is – was one of Glee’s most readily useful figures. Captain of McKinley High’s Cheerios, she is at once terrifying, and terrifically witty, snarling razor-sharp quips at anyone whom dared to get a cross her. Lots of her most readily useful comments that are barbed be recited from memory. “How is it possible to do a duet all on your own? ” she asks Kurt at one rehearsal. “That’s like vocal masturbation”. Just like the groundbreaking film But I’m A Cheerleader, Rivera depicted a character that is lesbian from the most common tired stereotypes. Activate the TV now, and you’ll see countless other queer figures whom are indebted into the fundamentals she set down: Riverdale‘s Cheryl Blossom, to call one character whom may well not occur without her.

With no skill like Rivera, Santana might’ve simply finished up being another bitchy TV cheerleader, however in this situation, the actor learned classics like suggest Girls for motivation and brought comic timing to each and every line. And behind her steely exterior, it constantly felt like Santana ended up being keeping part of by by herself straight straight back – in season two, Rivera explored her kinder, more susceptible part, and behind the scenes, pressed for Santana’s relationship with Brittany you need to take more really. Initially, it had been conceived as being a brief punchline.

“It began off as this funny thing that is little like “oh yeah she simply arbitrarily shacks up along with her friend Brittany, ” Rivera explained. “But I became sort of encouraging them making it more severe rather than mess around along with it ‘cause you can find individuals on the market it’s perhaps not bull crap to. It’s their genuine lives”. She comprehended that she could truly achieve something significant alternatively.