Naya Rivera, the Grammy-nominated singer and actress best known for her role as Santana Lopez on Glee, was declared dead Monday at the age of 33.
A body was recovered Monday at Lake Piru in Southern California, the site where actress went missing last Wednesday while boating with her 4-year-old son. Divers recovered the body around 9:30 a.m. floating on the surface of the water, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.
Sheriff Ayub confirmed the body recovered was that of Rivera's during a Monday press conference. "Our hearts go out to her family, friends and fans during this difficult time. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of her death," they tweeted.
Rivera's son told investigators that he and his mother had been swimming in the lake, and she helped him get back in the boat, but saw Rivera disappear under the surface of the water. The child, whose father is Ryan Dorsey, was reported to be unharmed.
Following the news, Hollywood figures have taken to social media to pay tribute to the actress, whose career broke out in 2009 on Ryan Murphy's mega-hit Fox musical dramedy Glee, playing snarky cheerleader Santana Lopez. Following her role on the musical comedy-drama series, Rivera had a recurring role on the Lifetime drama series Devious Maids. She later starred opposite Ne-Yo on the TV update of Step Up, which recently moved from its former home at YouTube to premium cable network Starz for its second season.
A body presumed to be Rivera's was recovered on the seven-year anniversary of the death of Glee star Cory Monteith, who died July 13, 2013, from a drug overdose.
Glee creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan penned a touching tribute to Rivera, calling her "one of the most talented, special stars we would ever have the pleasure of working with."
"Naya Rivera was a fierce talent with so much more to do and this is such a terrible tragedy. We are forever grateful for the indelible contribution she made to Glee, from the first episode to the last. Our hearts are broken and our thoughts go out to Naya’s family, friends and young son," 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment, which produced Glee, said of Rivera in a statement sent to THR.
"Our hearts go out to Naya Rivera’s family, especially her young child, in response to the tragic news of her passing," Starz and Lionsgate said in a statement. "She was a vibrant and luminous talent who will always remain a very special part of our Step Up family. Her remarkable contributions to our industry created a lasting memory that will be carried forward by everyone who had the privilege of knowing her."
Jane Lynch, who starred alongside Rivera on Glee as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, paid tribute to the actress on Twitter writing, "Rest Sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family."
Matthew Morrison, who starred as Glee's teacher Will Schuester, honored Rivera on Instagram, describing the actress as a "powerful force, in both her personal life and in her work." "While so many of us were trying to find our voice, Naya’s was clear and resolute. When she spoke, you would embrace every last word. And when she sang, she would let you into her soul. Glee acted as only a snippet of her life that we all, thankfully, had the honor of witnessing. But Naya would shine brightest when surrounded by her wonderful family," he wrote.
Morrison praised Rivera for being so "fervent about motherhood" and for her "steadfast love for Josey." "It is that powerful love that ensures us that her story does not end here. I’m confident that her positive influence will be continuously felt, and that her beautiful spirit will carry on in the lives of so many," he said. "I’m devastated by this immense loss. This week has been long and trying with much praying and hope. I find some solace in closure, but the pain I feel for her and her family cannot be measured. Rest in peace, keep shining down on us with your bright light."
Morris, who played Rivera's love interest on Glee, didn't release a full statement but rather shared on Instagram that she's "taking a moment to honor my grief." "Thank you for all your messages and prayers. Taking care of myself and family comes first."
Chris Colfer, who starred in Glee as Kurt Hummel, wrote on Instagram: "How can you convey all your love and respect for someone in one post? How can you summarize a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone? If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t. Her brilliance and humor were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly. She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness. She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be."
Glee's Jenna Ushkowitz, who portrayed Tina Cohen-Chang on the Fox series, wrote: "There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don't believe I'll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel but ... Naya, you were a force and everyone who got to be around you knew it and felt the light and joy you exuded when you walked into a room. You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors."
She continued: "I was lucky enough to share so many laughs, martinis and secrets with you. I can not believe I took for granted that you'd always be here. Our friendship went in waves as life happens and we grow, so I will not look back and regret but know I love you and promise to help the legacy of your talent, humor, light and loyalty live on. You are so loved. You deserved the world and we will make sure Josey and your family feel that everyday. I miss you already."
Kevin McHale, who played Artie Abrams on Glee, took to Instagram to write about how he "cannot imagine this world" without Rivera.
"I’m thankful for all the ways in which she made me a better person. She taught me how to advocate for myself and to speak up for the things and people that were important to me, always. I’m thankful for the times I grew an ab muscle from laughing so hard at something she said. I’m thankful she became like family. I’m thankful that my dad happened to have met her weeks before I did and when I got Glee, he told me to 'look out for a girl named Naya because she seemed nice.' Well dad, she was nice and she became one of my favorite people ever."
Amber Riley, who played Mercedes Jones on the show, posted on Instagram, "My favorite duet partner. I love you. I miss you. I don’t have words right now, just lots of feelings. Rest In Peace Angel, and know that your family will never have to worry about anything."
Roughly 10 days later, Riley took to Instagram to share a longer message paying tribute to Rivera.
"I’m so mad the world will never see how high you could have soared. Her brain was brilliant. She was smart and as quick as a whip. Always had me in stitches, we would be in tears laughing so hard at one another," Riley wrote in part. "There was never competition, or shade, or intimidation with us. Just pure adoration and mutual respect. You deserved better. You were so much more than just this show. Your talent outshined us all so many times! ... I say your name everyday and hold you in my heart, just like I do Cory. We are working as a cast and crew and a family to come together and show love, and it’s all because of you. Your presence brought so much excitement, so much passion, so much joy, and in your absence you’re STILL holding us accountable and getting us together. I’ve cried until my tear ducts have dried out, now it’s time to celebrate the fact that us mere humans got to experience walking through life with an earth angel. Rest well. I pray you found the peace we all are searching for."
She also urged people to be kind to Rivera's family as they grieved her.
"Please be mindful of the things you say to them or messages you send," Riley wrote. "If it’s anything beyond condolences and words of encouragement, keep it to yourself. All they need is love and good energy and support right now. We clear? Cool. Thank you."
Dianna Agron, who played Quinn Fabray on the show, posted on Instagram: "Naya and I fell into stride with such ease, she was my first friend and ally on our show. In the pilot, our characters came and went with such swiftness. Our enthusiasm brimmed with all of the unknown. We tried to grasp what the other cast members must be feeling as we were working in such separate manners. We dared to dream. What if this show worked? Wouldn’t that be something? Something was brimming, it was palpable. And thank god it worked. Naya’s magnetic talent was going to be unleashed, we just didn’t know it yet. "
Agron continued: "To work with her was a gift. There was a great deal to absorb - her work ethic, her fearlessness, her talent - supreme. Naya had a laugh that would envelop you and hold you captive. She was mesmerizing. That twinkle in her eye, her luminous smile. Naya lead with truth, humor, wit. I loved her for all of these reasons. "
Lea Michele, Glee's Rachel Berry, paid tribute to both Rivera and Monteith, whom she dated before his passing, on her Instagram stories. Michele posted black and white images of both Rivera and Monteith on set.
Alex Newell, who would join the show in later seasons — after participating in reality show The Glee Project — as Glee continued to make featuring LGBTQ characters a top priority, tweeted, "Now more than ever we must lift her family and friends up especially Josey! My heart is sent to them ... Josey you are truly loved by every single person who loves your mommy! I love you Naya!"
Later, Newell posted a video of an advertisement with Rivera for Fox and remembered, "I truly had soo much fun filming this little segment ... we both clearly didn’t wanna be there but made the most of it!"
Becca Tobin, Glee's cheerleader Kitty Wilde, wrote of Rivera: "Naya was insanely talented, breathtakingly gorgeous, and one of the wittiest people I’ve ever met, but the legacy she left behind for me is her kindness." After feeling "intimidated and terrified" joining the show in the third season, Tobin says, "Naya, one of the most beloved by the rest of the cast (and the entire world), showed me instant warmth and kindness. … She invited me to parties and gatherings and was always there to give advice. She was a superstar who had nothing to gain from being kind to the new girl, but she was and that changed this new girl’s entire experience on that show. I will forever be grateful to that beautiful human. My heart goes out to her family and her sweet boy," she wrote.
Gwyneth Paltrow, who guest starred on Glee, shared her performance alongside Rivera and Heather Morris on Instagram writing: "Getting to sing in this trio with her was such a special moment. I am in utter shock and disbelief that someone so full of life and passion and talent is no longer with us. And completely heart broken for her family."
Harry Shum Jr., who portrayed Mike Chang on Glee, took to Twitter to pay his respects to Rivera. "I'm failing miserable to process this news. I always imagined old future senior moments where we would hear your infectious laughter down the hall knowing that our funny bone was in for a treat," he wrote.
He went on to describe Rivera as "the life of the party" and "that shining friend that was always willing to listen, offer sympathy, perspective and at times, give much needed levity to any situation." Shum Jr. emotionally writes that Rivera "deserved more" but hopes that "all the good" she gave to the world "will be returned in abundance when you reunite with our brother [Montieth] in the heavenly skies."
Max Adler, who played football player Dav Karofsky on Glee, also paid tribute, posting several broken heart and crying emojis. Glee actor Joshua Sussman, who portrayed Jacob Ben Israel, wrote: "Naya, you will be missed so much."
Melissa Benoist, who joined Glee in later seasons and now stars on The CW's Supergirl, posted a tribute late Monday on Instagram: "It’s difficult to find words. There was an undeniable beauty that she radiated inside and out, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that I got to witness that up close even for the short period of time that I did. I was so intimidated by her, yet she had a way of disarming that just made you want to be around her, hear what she had to say (because it would undoubtedly be the sharpest and most real thing you would hear all day)," she wrote.
Ryan Dorsey, who was married to Rivera from 2014 to 2018, shared a heartfelt tribute to his late ex-wife on July 25. "This is so unfair...there's not enough words to express the hole left in everyone's hearts. I can't believe this is life now. I don't know if I'll ever believe it. You were just here... We were just in the back swimming with Josey the day before. Life just isn't fair. I don't know what to say...I'm thankful for our times and our journey that brought us together and gave us the sweetest and kindest smart little boy we could ever hope for," he wrote.
"I remember sometimes you used to get annoyed at me: 'Ryan can you stop snap chatting!' Haha. I'm glad I didn't listen to you because I have hundreds and probably thousands of snaps and videos that Josey will have forever and know his momma loved him more than life, and how much fun we had together as he was growing up. Life is all about good times and bad times but with Josey it makes the bad a little less so because a part of you will always be with us. He'll never forget where he came from. We miss you. We will always love you. Love you Meep," Dorsey continued in his post. "To everyone that reached out and I haven't had a chance to or just didn't get back to you...thank you all for the overwhelming love and support you've sent our way. I'll just say in closing, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, forgive...forget...don't hold grudges....if you have nothing nice to say maybe try not to say anything. There's peace in silence. Time on Earth is precious and you just never know....you never know what could happen. Hold your loved ones close, and cherish the times you have with those you care about. "
The actress's sister Nickayla Rivera also paid tribute on social media, with a photo of herself at a young age alongside Rivera. "There are no words to describe my love for you," she wrote. "Side by side or miles apart, our connection is infinite. Our bond is unbreakable. We were complete opposites, yet simultaneously the same. The yin to my yang. I never knew that by losing you, I would find so much of you in myself. I’ve never known a life without you in it & still can’t imagine it. My world is turned upside down. But through it all, everything we were, we are still. I’ll always look at you with the same eyes as I did when I was young. My shmaya, I’ll love you for eternity & miss you every second of my life."
Big Sean also shared thoughts on Rivera's passing on Instagram on July 17. The two were previously engaged in 2013, but bended the relationship months later. The 32-year-old rapper wrote, "Rest in Peace Naya, God Bless your Soul! Thank you for blessing us all with your talent and presence. you are a hero! Not just because of how you saved your son, also because of the barriers you knocked down for so many people to make them feel confident in themselves and to stand tall and be proud when they couldn’t achieve that on their own. I appreciate and cherish everything that ever happened between us for making me wiser and a better person. I’m still grieving and in shock, I can’t believe this is real. I’m praying for you and your family and I know your watching over them and protecting them."
See more tributes below.