Naya Rivera‘s character on Glee, Santana Lopez, seemed like your typical mean girl during the first season, but the actress proved to be a huge asset to the show that made her a household name. Her best vocal performances on the series will certainly remind you how impressive she was as a cast member.
Her role as the popular cheerleader is Rivera’s most well-known work to date. She starred in all six seasons of the series, appearing in 99 out of 121 episodes. The California native was a breakout star because of her powerful voice and acting, which shined in several emotional performances.
Rivera’s character questioned her sexuality during season 1 after realizing she had feelings for her best friend, Brittany Pierce, played by Heather Morris. The storyline came to a head when she confessed her feelings for the fellow cheerleader during a moving performance of Fleetwood Mac‘s “Landslide” in season 2, alongside Morris and Gwyneth Paltrow, who was guest-starring as substitute teacher Holly Holiday.
During season 3, Rivera did a trio with Amber Riley‘s character, Mercedes Jones, and BFF Brittany — the legendary mashup of Adele‘s “Rumor Has It” and “Someone Like You.” The powerhouse performance led to a pivotal moment in the show’s plotline: Santana slaps the late Cory Monteith‘s character, Finn Hudson, for gossiping about her bisexuality.
After Monteith’s tragic overdose during season 5 of the series in 2013, his character also died on the show. Rivera’s heart-wrenching performance of The Band Perry‘s “If I Die Young” in celebration of the star’s character was a total tearjerker.
Rivera was declared a missing person on July 8 after she and her 4-year-old son, Josey Dorsey, rented a pontoon boat at Lake Piru, outside of Los Angeles. The child was later found sleeping alone on the boat by other boaters, who called park rangers to conduct a search.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, Capt. Eric Buschow, revealed Josey told authorities he and his mother were playing in the water, but at some point, he returned to the boat and she did not.
“The fact that she was seen in the water shows there is a high likelihood that she drowned,” Buschow explained. “These big reservoirs, there is a lot that goes on. There are plenty of currents. People drown in California lakes every year.”