Demi Lovato, who played Santana’s girlfriend on the show, will introduce the special tribute, which will feature “Glee” cast members Jacob Artist, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Vanessa Lengies, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Alex Newell, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., Becca Tobin and Jenna Ushkowitz.
While on air, the series was nominated six times for outstanding comedy series, which it won in 2010 and 2011. Queer storylines were part of “Glee” from the beginning, most notably in the story arc of Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), whose relationship with Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss) ebbs and flows throughout much of the show.
As a Cheerio-New Directioner, Santana could hurl a whip-smart insult just as well as she could bust out a verse of Tina Turner’s “River Deep-Mountain High” or Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” She came out in Season 3 Episode 7, bringing queer-Latinx representation to network television.
The tribute follows Rivera’s tragic death in July 2020. She and her son were swimming at Lake Piru in Ventura County, Calif., when she accidentally drowned. Her body was recovered exactly seven years after Cory Monteith (who played the beloved Finn Hudson) died due to an accidental overdose.
“Naya leaves behind a void that only Naya herself could fill,” Colfer wrote in a tribute to his castmate in Variety. “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.”
There was an outpouring of grief and remembrances from Hollywood and beyond on social media upon the announcement of her death. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez captured Rivera’s impact on the industry with a single tweet: “The talent and depth Naya brought to her characters inspired millions. As a Latina, it‘s rare to have rich, complex characters reflect us in media. Naya worked hard to give that gift to so many.”
A noteworthy omission from the reunion lineup is Lea Michele, who played “Glee” protagonist Rachel Berry. Last summer, Michele came under fire came under for allegations of past racist and “prima-donna” behavior on set. “Glee” cast member Samantha Ware said Michele made her “first television gig a living hell.” Morris, who played Cheerio-New Directioner (and, often, Sanatana’s girlfriend) Brittany S. Pierce, tweeted, “Let me be very clear, hate is a disease in America that we are trying to cure, so I would never wish for hate to be spread to anyone else. With that said, was she unpleasant to work with? Very much so.”
The GLAAD Media Awards will air on GLAAD’s YouTube channel on April 8 at 8 p.m. and will be available on Hulu starting at 10 p.m.