33-year-old actress Naya Rivera was confirmed to have died yesterday, five days following her disappearance after a tragic swimming accident in California’s Lake Piru. After her recovery from the water, her family and members of the Glee cast gathered on the lake’s shore in memorial of their loved one and friend. An image of their vigil was shared to social media (see below) and quickly went viral as fans mourn the loss of the talented performer at such a young age.
Rivera started out as a child actress and model, appearing in ABC sitcom The Royal Family at the age of four. She continued to land recurring TV roles, guest spots, commercials and modelling gigs throughout her teens, before her big break came when she won the role of Santana Lopez on Glee in 2009.
The actress was originally a recurring player on the musical comedy-drama’s first season, but was promoted to regular for its second season onwards, along with Heather Morris, who played Santana’s best friend-turned-girlfriend Brittany. At the time of her death, Rivera was starring on Step Up, a TV spinoff of the dance-themed film series.
Foul play or the possibility of suicide have been ruled out by the authorities and conversations with her young son, Josey, have revealed that Rivera was able to boost the four-year-old back onto their boat but was unable to climb on herself before a strong current took her underneath the water. Josey was later found asleep and wearing a life jacket and is now safe and being looked after by family.
In a tragic twist of fate, the day the actress’ body was recovered – July 13th – was the same day that marked the seventh anniversary of the death of Glee co-star Cory Monteith, who died at the age of 31 due to a heroin and alcohol overdose.
Rest in peace Naya Rivera.