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Performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday night, Riley, who starred on Glee as Mercedes Jones alongside Rivera, sang a song called “A Moment.”
Prior to taking the stage, guest host Lil Rel Howery thanked the show for allowing them to take a moment to honor Rivera. “Not too long ago we both lost a really amazing friend in a tragic accident and we both will miss her forever. I really want to thank the show for really letting us do this. She’s here to perform a tribute to our good friend Naya Rivera,” he said.
Throughout Riley’s performance, she sang heartfelt lyrics such as “Everybody thinks I’m okay but don’t nobody know the way I’m really feeling” and “I faced every kind of pain … God knows I’m tired.” A montage of images of Rivera and Rivera with her son Josey were shown onscreen behind Riley as she sang. At the end of her performance, Riley turned and looked at a smiling image of Rivera onscreen.
Rivera was declared dead at the age of 33 on July 8 after her body was recovered at the lake where she went missing while boating with her 4-year-old son Josey.
Following the tragic news that Rivera died of an accidental drowning, Rivera’s Glee co-stars and other Hollywood figures took to social media to pay tribute to the actress. In her tribute on social media, Rivera described Rivera as “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.”
Riley later took to Instagram to share a longer message in which she detailed her grief over the loss of her friend. “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’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.”
To honor Rivera’s legacy, Glee creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan announced that they “are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all.”
Watch Riley’s performance below.
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