I’m not sure anyone on Earth could give Naya Rivera the tribute she deserves.
In fact, the process of losing her has been such a nightmare, I find myself wondering if Naya was even real or if she was just a dream all along. How could a human being be that talented, that hilarious and that beautiful at once? How could one person be responsible for so much joy and be the subject of so many wonderful memories?
When Naya sang, you could feel her soul resonating through your own. Her voice would break your heart in one chorus, only to rebuild it in the next. Watching her perform was like watching magic unfold before your eyes. Naya didn’t just sing a song. She brought it to life. And with every note, she exposed the old sage living inside her young body.
As an actress, Naya could tell a whole story with one expression. It didn’t matter how outrageous the plot was, she spoke with so much authenticity, she made you believe every word she said, and often, you’d forget she was acting at all. Her heroic and groundbreaking portrayal of Santana Lopez on “Glee” inspired millions of young people around the world, especially in the LGBTQIA community, and it will be treasured for generations to come.
Naya also had a superhuman ability to memorize scripts. With one glance, she would know all her lines and yours — which came in handy when you acted alongside her. Sometimes, I’d become so lost in Naya’s performance, I’d forget I was in the scene with her. Even when her character was tearing mine to shreds, I couldn’t help but respect how brilliantly she delivered the insults.
When someone is as talented as Naya, saying she was also one of the funniest and most quotable people that I’ve ever met sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s the absolute truth. Naya could defuse a bomb with a witty remark. Her comebacks and quips were legendary, and I used to follow her around set, jotting down everything she said into my phone.
On particularly rough days of filming, you might find her outside enjoying a cigarette in her bright red cheerleading uniform. She would raise an invisible glass and say, “To being role models!” or “City of dreams, huh?”
Whenever the “Glee” cast commiserated about the demanding shooting schedule, Naya would instantly cheer us up with a line like, “Gosh, this internship blows!” or “Guys, we know what we signed up for. The first person to guess the mole gets the cash.”
Even after an eighteen-hour day of singing and dancing, when mustering a smile felt impossible, Naya could make you laugh out loud. Once, during a heated exchange between an actor and a director, I’ll never forget her turning to me with a cheeky grin and asking, “Is this a bad time to tell someone the DVD player in my trailer isn’t working?”
As a friend, you could talk to her about anything. She was the cool older sister you went to for advice, to blow off steam, or to get the hottest take on the latest gossip. Just being in Naya’s presence made you feel protected and regardless of the situation, you knew she’d have your back. She was never afraid to stand up to authority, she always called out mistreatment where she saw it and she always told you the truth — even when it was hard to hear.
For as long as I’ve known Naya, the thing she wanted most in life was to be a mother. She spent hours telling us what she was going to name her kids, how she was going to dress them and all the free babysitting she’d bamboozle out of us. When her son Josey was born in 2015, it was like a missing piece of Naya had finally arrived. Their connection was magnetic, their affection was radiant and I’ve never seen a person look happier than when Naya gushed over her little boy.
Being a mom was perhaps Naya’s greatest talent of all, and as her final moments proved, Naya was an extraordinary mother until the very end.
Naya leaves behind a void that only Naya herself could fill. To have a friend like her, even briefly, is to be blessed beyond belief. She is a shining example of the impact a person can have when one lives fearlessly. Her loss is a tragic reminder to celebrate every moment we possibly can with the people we love because the only thing we know for certain about life is how fragile it can be.
To quote Naya herself, “No matter the year, circumstance, or strife, everyday you’re alive is a blessing. make the most of today and every day you are given. Tomorrow is not promised.”
Chris Colfer is a Golden Globe-winning, Emmy and SAG Award nominated actor, #1 New York Times bestselling author, screenwriter and producer.