Recalling Naya Rivera: an intense talent and a trailblazer for LGBTQ+ representation
The ‘Glee’ star simply leaves behind a extremely effective legacy, and a generation of queer fans to who she provided hope
Today, the planet recalls Naya Rivera. Most widely known for her breakout part as Santana Lopez in Glee, the actress, singer and model died aged just 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 a lot of things she did. Through the parody anti-yeast illness commercial that she filmed as an element of her part in Glee, to her turn 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 LGBTQ+ community, numerous will even keep in mind Rivera being 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 other cheerleader Brittany had been genuinely groundbreaking – for most teenagers growing up as Glee aired, Rivera played the very first lesbian character they’d ever seen on television, complete end. This is within the noughties that are late not as much as a ten years following the ending of Section 28, which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in UK schools. Gay wedding wasn’t legal yet. The ever that is first of a lesbian intercourse scene into the reputation for tv happened simply six years ahead of the very very first period of Glee, and in accordance with Amber Benson (who played Tara on Buffy The Vampire Slayer) obtaining the community to also accept a same-sex kiss previously ended up being “like pulling teeth”. This came at the same time whenever Buffy and Spike were merrily shagging their way around secluded graveyards – there is a huge and clear disparity between the way in which right and homosexual partners were depicted within the news.
Meanwhile, you might effortlessly count the range queer ladies featuring on conventional television shows on one hand. In britain we’d Emily and Naomi from Skins, plus in the usa, audiences had Ellen Degeneres, and Samantha Jones experimenting for two Intercourse while the City episodes because of the heavily stereotyped Brazilian musician Maria Diega Reyes.
Naya Rivera had been a supply of convenience for most queer fans of ‘Glee’. Credit: Getty
And where there is larger media representation, it had been usually restricted to more niche LGBTQ+ shows just like the L term, Sugar Rush, and Lip provider – hugely important programs, however with an integral huge difference: we needed to earnestly look for them down. These programs had been additionally predominantly white. Queerness had been a thing that had been repressed and whispered about into the main-stream; as soon as we saw ourselves reflected, it absolutely was frequently belated at evening because of the amount rejected, one little finger anxiously poised on the television remote’s energy key at all times. Glee, having said that, had on average 10.11 million watchers at its top in appeal. Besides attaining the queer those who perhaps required a character like Santana the absolute most, it reached their moms and dads, buddies, and grand-parents – all watching the show close to them from the settee. As a new gay kid who was simply scared shitless at the notion of ever being released, Rivera’s character offered 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 get a cross her. A lot of her most useful barbed responses can nevertheless be recited from memory. “How is it possible to execute 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 lesbian character free from the most common tired stereotypes. Turn on the television now, and you’ll see countless other queer characters whom are indebted towards the fundamentals she lay down: Riverdale‘s Cheryl Blossom, to mention one character whom may well not occur without her.
The actor studied classics like Mean Girls for inspiration and brought comic timing to every line without a talent like Rivera, Santana might’ve just ended up being another bitchy TV cheerleader, but in this case. And behind her steely exterior, it constantly felt like Santana had been keeping part of by by herself back – in season two, Rivera explored her kinder, more side that is vulnerable and behind the scenes, pressed for Santana’s relationship with Brittany you need to take more really. Initially, it absolutely was conceived as being a punchline that is brief.
“It began off as this funny small thing, like “oh yeah she simply arbitrarily shacks up together with her buddy Brittany, ” Rivera explained. “But I became sort of encouraging them to really make it more severe and never mess around along with it ‘cause you can find individuals available to you so it’s perhaps not bull crap to. It’s their real lives”. She comprehended that she could attain one thing undoubtedly meaningful alternatively.