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

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

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

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

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

Santana Lopez’s on-screen love with other cheerleader Brittany had been genuinely groundbreaking – for several 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 into the belated noughties, not as much as a 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 first ever broadcast of a lesbian intercourse scene when you look at the reputation for tv were held simply six years ahead of the very first period of Glee, and in accordance with Amber Benson (whom played Tara on Buffy The Vampire Slayer) having 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 were depicted when you look at the media.

Meanwhile, you might effortlessly count the range queer females featuring on main-stream television shows on one hand. In britain we’d Emily and Naomi from Skins, plus in the usa, people had Ellen Degeneres, and Samantha Jones experimenting for a few Intercourse while the City episodes utilizing the heavily stereotyped Brazilian musician Maria Diega Reyes.

Naya Rivera ended up being a supply of convenience for most queer fans of ‘Glee’. Credit: Getty

And where there is larger media representation, it had been frequently limited by more niche LGBTQ+ shows just like the L term, glucose Rush, and Lip provider – hugely important programs, however with a difference that is key we had to earnestly look for them down. These shows had been additionally predominantly white. Queerness ended up being a thing that had been repressed and whispered about into the main-stream; as soon as we saw ourselves reflected, it absolutely was often belated at evening because of the amount rejected, one little finger anxiously poised on the television remote’s energy switch all the time. Glee, having said that, had on average 10.11 million people at its top in popularity. The most, it reached their parents, friends, and grandparents – all watching the show next to them on the sofa besides reaching the queer people who arguably needed a character like Santana. As a new homosexual kid who had been scared shitless in the concept of ever being released, Rivera’s character provided me personally hope that is genuine.

And Santana – the hilarious expert in smarting one-liners and ponytail flicks that she is – was one of Glee’s most readily useful characters. Captain of McKinley High’s Cheerios, she is at once terrifying, and terrifically witty, snarling quips that are razor-sharp anyone whom dared to get a get a get a cross her. Lots of her most useful barbed responses can be recited from memory. “How could you do a duet 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 television now, and you’ll see countless other queer characters whom are indebted to your fundamentals she set down: Riverdale‘s Cheryl Blossom, to call one character whom might not occur without her.

With out a talent like Rivera, Santana might’ve simply finished up being another bitchy television cheerleader, however in this instance, the actor learned classics like Mean Girls for inspiration and brought comic timing to every line. And behind her steely exterior, it constantly felt like Santana ended up being keeping part of herself straight 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 small thing, like “oh yeah she just randomly shacks up along with her friend Brittany, ” Rivera explained. “But I happened to be sort of encouraging them to make it much more serious and not mess around that it’s not a joke to with it‘cause there are people out there. It’s their real lives”. She comprehended that she could truly achieve something significant alternatively.