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Naya Rivera

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Naya Rivera
Naya Rivera by Jiyang Chen.jpg
Rivera in 2011
Born Naya Marie Rivera
(1987-01-12) January 12, 1987 (age 28)
Valencia, California, U.S.
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.[1]
Other names Naya Rivera Dorsey
Occupation Actress, singer-songwriter, model, director
Years active 1991–present
Spouse(s) Ryan Dorsey (m. 2014)
Children 1
Relatives Mychal Rivera (brother)
Musical career
Genres Pop, R&B
Instruments Vocals
Labels Columbia
Associated acts Jaden Michaels, 2Cellos

Naya Rivera Dorsey[2] (born Naya Marie Rivera; January 12, 1987)[3] is an American actress and singer, known for playing Santana Lopez on Fox's musical comedy-drama television series Glee. She also played the role of Hillary Winston on The Royal Family at the age of 4, for which she received a Young Artist Award nomination. Her first solo single "Sorry", featuring American rapper Big Sean, was released on September 17, 2013.[4]

Early life[edit]

Naya Marie Rivera was born and raised in Valencia, California, and has lived in or around Los Angeles for most of her life.[3] She is of Puerto Rican, African American, and German descent.[5] Her parents are Yolanda, a former model, and George Rivera.[6] Her brother is NFL tight end Mychal Rivera,[7] and her younger sister is runway model Nickayla Rivera.[8] At 8 or 9 months old, Rivera began to be represented by the same talent agent as her mother, who had moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling.[9]


1991–2008: Career beginnings[edit]

Rivera appeared in commercials for Kmart as a baby, but her first significant acting job was at age 4 when she appeared as Hillary Winston in The Royal Family sitcom in 1991.[9] The show received positive reviews and high ratings initially, but it was canceled soon after star Redd Foxx suffered a sudden heart attack on set.[10] Rivera received a Young Artist Award nomination for her performance in the series. Between 1992 and 2002, she had small roles in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, Live Shot, Baywatch, Smart Guy, The Jersey, House Blend, Even Stevens and The Master of Disguise. In 2002, she also appeared in the music video for B2K's "Why I Love You". She was hired for a single episode guest appearance on The Bernie Mac Show in 2002, but she was brought back to work on a further ten episodes throughout all five seasons.[11] She was later featured in episodes of 8 Simple Rules and CSI: Miami.[9][12] In between auditions and roles, Rivera worked jobs as a telemarketer, a nanny and a greeter at an Abercrombie & Fitch store.[13] In 2006 and 2007, Rivera took part in a production of Mark E. Swinton's play, U Don't Know Me: The Musical, both in Los Angeles and when the production was taken on national tour.[14]

2009–11: Breakthrough and acclaim with Glee[edit]

Rivera (left) and Heather Morris at the 2011 PaleyFest event

In 2009, Rivera was cast as Santana Lopez, a high school cheerleader, on Fox's musical comedy series Glee, about a high school glee club. Rivera's character comes off as a cold-hearted and vicious cheerleader, who often shows her softer side to fellow cheerleader Brittany (played by Heather Morris). Rivera auditioned for the opportunity "to sing, dance and act all in the same show," and because she was a fan of co-creator Ryan Murphy's previous work on Nip/Tuck.[12] Rivera drew on her own high school experience of unpopularity to prepare for the role, as well as watching films such as Mean Girls to "really get in the zone and feel like a bitchy sophomore."[15] She has described Santana as "your typical high school cheerleader, for the most part," explaining: "She's really mean and loves boys. She's really witty so I love playing her."[15] She has characterized Santana as "a bit of a bad girl" who is "really snarky and always has these really witty one-liners she throws out there."[16] Rivera enjoys the fact Santana is competitive and headstrong as she herself shares those traits, but dislikes Santana's mean streak.[17] She finds the show's pacing challenging, especially the dancing, and commented in June 2009 that her most memorable moment on Glee was performing the Cheerios' glee club audition piece, "I Say a Little Prayer".[15] Santana played a more prominent part in the last nine episodes of Glee‍‍ '​‍s first season.[18] Rivera commented: "Santana's been wreaking havoc with people's boyfriends and people's babies and teachers – she's the high school terror, and she's going to continue to be the villain."[19]

After having her screen time and musical involvement increased in the second half of the first season, Rivera was promoted to official series regular status as of the beginning of the second season.[20] She was given her first solo in the fifth episode of season two, "The Rocky Horror Glee Show", and performed several others as the season progressed. During the second season, Rivera's role in the show was radically changed when it was revealed that her character was a lesbian. Rivera portrayed Santana struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, with her love for her best friend, and with her inability to come out of the closet. She received favorable reviews for her performance.[21][22] In January 2011, Rivera appeared in a parody of "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang", called "Nuthin' But a Glee Thang", co-written by Glee co-star Heather Morris.[23]

In July 2011, Rivera was nominated for two ALMA Awards, in the categories of Favorite Female Music Artist and Favorite TV Actress – Leading Role in a Comedy.[24] Rivera received a great amount of critical praise for both her acting and her singing performances in the latter part of season two and the beginning of season three. As 2011 ended, she or her character were on many "Best Of" lists, including HitFix's 25 Breakout Stars of 2011,[25] TV Guide‍‍ '​‍s Best Performances of 2011,[26] MTV‍‍ '​‍s Best TV Characters of 2011,[27] as well as others. In the second half of the series' third season, she was given the opportunity to do a duet with Ricky Martin,[28] and worked with Gloria Estefan, who was cast as Santana's mother.[29] As the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards approached, Rivera was listed by many critics and media outlets as deserving of a nomination; The Hollywood Reporter included her in their "Emmy 2012: Supporting Players" photo shoot,[30] and Rivera was also honored by E!,[31] HitFix,[32] TV Guide,[33] and others. She was also chosen by the TV Academy to take part in a promotional video for the upcoming awards ceremony.[34]

2011–14: Musical solo debut[edit]

Rivera posing with her two Alma Awards at the 2012 ceremony

In May 2011, it was announced that Rivera had signed a deal with Columbia Records to produce a solo album.[35] The musical duo 2Cellos released the second single to their second album, a cover of Muse's "Supermassive Black Hole" featuring vocals by Rivera. She also starred in the music video for the song.[36] Rivera's debut single "Sorry", featuring rapper Big Sean, was released as a digital download on September 17, 2013.[37] However, production on the album "kind of halted" due to "so many things going on," Rivera stated, "Politics got involved so I've been putting it on the back burner; there are a lot of things that I'm doing that I'm excited about."[38]

On May 1, 2014, it was reported that Columbia had dropped Rivera because her debut single had underperformed.[39] Rivera's representative released a statement to news outlets stating that any claims were falsified, and that legal action would be potentially taken to ensure Rivera's creditability; at the time of publishing, Columbia Records could not be reached for comment.[40][41]

2014–present: Directorial debut & feature film debut[edit]

Rivera was working on an immigrant project with Guillermo Diaz, which was a short film PSA about the effect of immigration on children and their parents. While Diaz's part is about telling the stories of young dreamers and the fear they have of their mothers being deported, Rivera's PSA is about the problems immigrants deal with or face in the U.S.

At the Devil's Door (previously titled Home), Rivera's debut feature film, premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas on March 9, 2014. The film has been described by its director, Nicholas McCarthy, as "a unique kind of genre film I think, almost like a Rubik's cube of a horror movie."[42] The film was released through video on demand on August 8, 2014, and theatrically released on September 12, 2014.[43][44] The film continued to play at festivals, receiving mixed reviews. Rivera's acting, however, received praise.[45][46][47][48] Edgar Chaput, of Sound on Sight, called Rivera "the standout... the most natural performance in the film,"[49] while Marsha McCreadie, of Film Journal, wrote, "At the Devil's Door doesn't pick up steam until late in the story, when Rivera carries the narrative,"[50] and Jeremy Kibler of Diabolique magazine wrote, "Coming primarily from a TV background and fun to watch as sharp-tongued lesbian cheerleader Santana on Glee, the eye-grabbing Naya Rivera adjusts to the big screen with ease in front of the camera. Her Vera is headstrong and rigid but cut with just the right amount of vulnerability."[51] In 2015, Rivera portrayed the recurring role of Blanca in the third season of Devious Maids.

Rivera will release a memoir titled Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up in spring 2016.[52]

Personal life[edit]


Rivera briefly dated Glee co-star Mark Salling in 2010. After their breakup she was accused of egging and keying his car due to his alleged infidelity; she denied these allegations.[38][53][54] Rivera began dating recording artist Big Sean in April 2013.[55] They announced their engagement that October[55] but ended their relationship in April 2014.[56] Soon after, Rivera began dating actor Ryan Dorsey (b. July 19, 1983)[57] a friend of four years. They were married in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on July 19, 2014.[58] On February 24, 2015, Rivera announced via Twitter that she and Dorsey are expecting their first child.[59] The couple has a son named Josey born in September 2015.[60]

During Rivera's appearance as a guest host on The View on January 14, 2015, Rosie O'Donnell remarked on a recent study that showed that bisexual women were more likely to have mental health problems than lesbians, to which Rivera replied, "Rosie, no wonder I'm crazy. This just solves it all."[61]


Rivera dedicates her time to various charitable organizations,[62] including GLAAD,[63] The Trevor Project,[64] Stand Up to Cancer,[65] The Elephant Project[66] and The Sunshine Foundation.[67]

Media appearances[edit]

In 2011, Rivera hosted the San Francisco GLAAD Media Awards.[68] In November 2011, Rivera and her Glee co-star Amber Riley performed at the 10th Annual Celebration of Dreams Event for the Dream Foundation.[69] In December 2011, Rivera was revealed as the newest celebrity spokesperson for Proactiv.[70] On March 24, 2012, she co-hosted the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York with Glee co-star Cory Monteith. Along with John Stamos, both hosts auctioned off kisses to the crowd, raising $15,000. This tradition started with Rivera when she hosted the 22nd Annual Media Awards in San Francisco.[63] In October 2012, Rivera was featured in the third episode of MTV's new show, This Is How I Made It. In the episode, Rivera recounted her childhood career as an actress and a model, as well as the lean times that came between the age of 16 and 21, leading up to her big break of being cast on Glee.[71] In December 2012, Rivera attended the annual Trevor Live! event, where she performed a cover of the song "Silent Night".[64] Rivera starred in an M&M's commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013, as the girl that "Red" is referring to (and who is essentially trying to eat him) with a cover of Meat Loaf's "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)".[72]

Public image[edit]

In April 2012, Rivera was featured on the cover of Latina magazine.[73] The following month she was also featured in the inaugural issue of Cosmo for Latinas,[74] and was selected by People en Español for their 50 Most Beautiful list.[75] In May 2012, Rivera made FHM's 100 Sexiest Women list, coming in at number 39.[76] She made the Maxim Hot 100 list for the third year in a row, moving up sixteen spots to number 27.[77] On the 2012 AfterEllen Hot 100 list, she was again ranked number 1. In May 2013, Rivera posed nude in an issue of Allure magazine.[78] Rivera was ranked number 37 in the Men's Health Hottest Women of 2014.

Rivera took up songwriting at the age of 15, declaring in one interview, " passion for music is one of my greatest loves."[5][79] In 2008, Rivera completed an 8-week screenwriting workshop at the New York Film Academy.[80][81] She has stated that if she could not act or sing, she would work as a writer.[82]

Concerning her religious views, Rivera noted in an interview with Latina magazine that she was raised a devout Christian but is very private about it, noting the conflict that can result from revealing such information. She stated, "It's hard and sort of sad that you do feel the need to tread lightly when you say, 'Yes, I do go to church and I do read the Bible,' because once you do that, people will be like, 'Why are her boobs out? Why is her midriff showing? Why is she playing a lesbian?' I don't want to deal with that stuff, so I've never really discussed it. It's very personal."[83]


Year Title Role Notes
2002 The Master of Disguise Captain America Kid
2009 Frankenhood Hottie
2011 Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Santana Lopez Concert film
2013 The Naughty List Sparkle (voice) Animated film
2014 At the Devil's Door Vera
Year Title Role Notes
1991–92 The Royal Family Hillary Winston Regular role; 15 episodes
1992–93 Family Matters Gwendolyn 3 episodes
1993 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Cindy Episode: "Bundle of Joy"
1993 The Sinbad Show Party Guest Episode: "It's My Party, I'll Cry If I Want To"
1995 Live Shot Ann Episode: "Another Day, Another Story"
1996 Baywatch Willa Episode: "Scorcher"
1997 Smart Guy Kelly Episode: "Baby, It's You and You and You"
1999 Tanya Episode: "Never Too Young"
1999 The Jersey Girl #2 Episode: "Be True to You"
2002 House Blend Chloe Pilot episode
2002 Even Stevens Charlene Episode: "Short Story"
2002–04 Pajama Rama Herself Host
2002–06 The Bernie Mac Show Donna Recurring role; 11 episodes
2003 Soul Food Lauryn 2 episodes
2004 8 Simple Rules Nice Girl Episode: "Halloween"
2008 Girlfriends Young Lady Episode: "Stand and Deliver"
2008 CSI: Miami Rachel Calvado Episode: "Power Trip"
2009–15 Glee Santana Lopez Season 1 and 6: Recurring role[84]
Season 2–5: Regular role; 99 episodes total
2010 When I Was 17 Herself Episode 28, with Carmelo Anthony and Taye Diggs
2012 The Glee Project Herself Episode: "Sexuality"
2012 This Is How I Made It Herself Episode 3, with Chris Brown
2013 Fashion Police Herself Guest star
2013 Styled to Rock Herself Guest star
2014 The Real Housewives of Atlanta Herself Episode: "Secrets Revealed"
2015 Devious Maids Blanca Alvarez Recurring role; 5 episodes



Title Year Peak chart positions Sales Album
US US Rhythmic IRE UK
(featuring Big Sean)
2013 34 81 73
  • US: 34,000
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Music videos[edit]

Year Artist Song title
2002 B2K "Why I Love You" "1:47"
2012 2Cellos "Supermassive Black Hole"[86]

Stage work[edit]

Year Title Role Location
2006–07 U Don't Know Me Keila Los Angeles, California and U.S. national tour

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Result
1992 Young Artist Awards Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress Under Ten Nominated
2010 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (with Glee Cast) Won
TV Land Awards Future Classics (with Glee Cast) Won
Imagen Awards Best Supporting Actress – Television Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music: Group (with Glee Cast) Nominated
Lesbian/Bi People's Choice Awards Favorite Music Duo or Group (with Glee Cast) Nominated
Gay People's Choice Awards Favorite Music Duo or Group (with Glee Cast) Won
2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (with Glee Cast) Nominated
Grammy Award Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (with Glee Cast; "Don't Stop Believin'") Nominated
Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (with Glee Cast; Glee: The Music, Volume 1) Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music: Group (with Glee Cast) Nominated
ALMA Awards Favorite TV Actress – Leading Role in a Comedy Nominated
Favorite Female Music Artist Won
2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (with Glee Cast) Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media (with Glee Cast; Glee: The Music, Volume 4) Nominated
My TV Awards Ridiculously Good-Looking Female Won
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Won
NewNowNext Awards Cause You're Hot Won
ALMA Awards Best Female Music Artist Won
Favorite TV Actress – Comedy Won
2013 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (with Glee Cast) Nominated
Giffoni Film Festival Giffoni Award Won
2014 People's Choice Awards Favorite TV Gal Pals (with Lea Michele) Won
Teen Choice Awards Female Scene Stealer Nominated

See also[edit]


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  6. ^ "Mychal Rivera Profile". UTSports. 
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  8. ^ Betiku, Fehintola (February 14, 2013). "Good looks run in the family! Naya Rivera's younger sister Nickayla takes to the runway during New York Fashion Week". Daily Mail. London. 
  9. ^ a b c "EXCLUSIVE: We Chat with GLEE’s Naya Rivera". Nice Girls TV. March 12, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  10. ^ Carter, Bill; Rutenrberg, Jim (November 9, 2011). "ABC Mourning Star of Series That Was Key To Its Lineup". The New York Times. Retrieved April 29, 2009. 
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  13. ^ Ito, Robert (May 24, 2011). "'Glee': Naya Rivera is glad to portray gay cheerleader Santana". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 24, 2011. 
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External links[edit]