Actress and singer Naya Rivera, who rose to stardom on the Fox musical Glee, has died; she was just 33 years old. Rivera’s body was recovered in California’s Lake Piru on Monday morning, five days after she was first reported missing. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the grim news at a press conference Monday afternoon.
Ventura officials sent more than 50 personnel, along with a helicopter and divers, to look for Rivera, who rented a boat on Lake Piru on July 8 to go swimming with her four-year-old son Josey. The boy was later found alone in the boat, with no sign of Rivera, and a search ensued. Within 24 hours, the search and rescue mission had officially turned into a recovery mission, with little chance of finding Rivera alive. Fans and friends still held out hope, though, with her former Glee co-star Heather Morris even volunteering to assist in the search effort.
After starting her career as a child actress on shows like the CBS sitcom The Royal Family, Rivera was cast as mean-girl cheerleader Santana Lopez on Fox’s Glee in 2009. The show became a pop-culture phenomenon, and Rivera was promoted to series regular in Season 2, playing a key role in the show’s teen ensemble and contributing to the soundtrack. She stepped back to a recurring role in Glee‘s sixth and final season, with Santana marrying her former cheerleader teammate Brittany, played by Heather Morris.
After Glee went off the air in 2015, Rivera played housemaid Blanca Alvarez on Lifetime’s Devious Maids, along with a guest voice role on American Dad! and a guest judge appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. She also recurred on the YouTube dance series Step Up: High Water and was set to star in the show’s upcoming third season after it was revived by Starz.
This is just the latest tragedy to befall the cast of Glee. On this day in July 2013, Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson on the Fox phenom, died of an accidental drug overdose after taking a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol. Three years later, co-star Mark Salling died by suicide following his conviction for possession of child pornography.
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