Naya Rivera Dead, ‘Glee’ Actress Dies At Age 33

Naya Rivera attends an event.
Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images

Naya Rivera has died. The actress — who is best known for her portrayal of Santana Lopez on the television show Glee –died at age 33 after presumably drowning at Lake Piru in California. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday, July 13, it had recovered a body from the lake and would hold a press conference later in the day. Since then, citing law enforcement sources, TMZ reported it was, indeed, Rivera.

Rivera was originally declared missing on Wednesday, after her 4-year-old son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, was found alone floating on the lake in a boat that she had earlier rented. There was no sign of Rivera in the vicinity and her son would tell police that his mother had been swimming but unable to return to the boat. Staffers at the lake alerted authorities, who used helicopters, drones, and dive teams in an attempt to find her before suspending their search late Wednesday.


Rivera Was A Prolific Child Actress Before Her Breakthrough Role In ‘Glee’

enna Ushkowitz, Naya Rivera, Dianna Agron and Lea Michele attend an event.
  Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Born in Santa Clarita, California, on January 12, 1987, Rivera exhibited a talent for acting from a very young age. Her first notable role came at the age of 4, when she played Hillary Winston on the CBS sitcom The Royal Family in 1991. She spent the next decade playing small roles in film, television, and music videos before getting a recurring guest role on The Bernie Mac Show in 2002. As she grew out of child roles in the 2000s, Rivera appeared in series such as 8 Simple Rules and CSI: Miami.

After almost two decades in the acting world, Rivera finally got her big break in 2009, when she was cast as Santana Lopez in FOX’s musical comedy series Glee. Rivera’s character was a cheerleader who on the surface appeared to be mean and cold-hearted, but had a much kinder side under the surface. The role of Lopez grew throughout the first season of Glee, and by the show’s second season, Rivera had become a series regular. Season 2 saw Lopez give her first solo musical performance on the series and be the focus of a storyline that revealed the character was a lesbian. Rivera’s character spent much of the season coming to terms with her identity and struggling to come out of the closet to those close to her.

Rivera received critical acclaim for her expanded role on Glee, winning an American Latino Media Arts Award in 2011 for “Favorite TV Actress – Leading Role in a Comedy” and appearing on multiple year-end lists from the likes of MTV and TV Guide. As Glee and Rivera surged in popularity, Rivera performed on the show with Latin American icons such as Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan.

In 2013, Rivera embarked on a music career and release her debut single, “Sorry”, featuring rapper and then-boyfriend Big Sean. The song didn’t live up to sales projections, and her planned album would never see a release. Rivera made her debut as a featured actress in the 2014 film At the Devil’s Door, for which she received praise for her acting despite the generally mixed reviews the film garnered. Following the end of Glee, Rivera appeared in roles on Lifetime’s drama series Devious Maids and the YouTube Red series Step Up: High Water.


Rivera Has A Son From Her Marriage With Actor Ryan Dorsey

Naya Rivera attends an event.
  David Livingston / Getty Images

In 2013, Rivera and rapper Big Sean began a relationship that saw the couple engaged before they split in April 2014. In the aftermath of the split, Rivera rekindled her former relationship with actor Ryan Dorsey. Rivera and Dorsey were wed on July 19, 2014 — the exact date that she and Sean had scheduled their wedding — and the couple announced in February 2015 that they were expecting their first child. In September 2015, Rivera gave birth to a son, Josey Hollis.

Rivera filed for divorce from Dorsey in 2016, leading to several difficult years, as the couple dealt with their relationship ending. The actress called off the divorce in October 2017, but the following month was arrested in Kanawha County, West Virginia, and charged with committing misdemeanor domestic battery against Dorsey. The charge was dismissed in January 2018, a month after Rivera refiled for divorce. In June 2018, the split was finalized.

Josey Hollis and Rivera had a very close relationship, and he made regular appearances on his mother’s social media.