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The Best Naya Rivera Performances on Glee That Will Never Be Forgotten

News of Naya Rivera’s disappearance on a lake in Southern California sent shockwaves through Hollywood and the Glee fandom this week. Rivera was reported missing after her four-year-old son was found asleep on a drifting pontoon boat on Lake Piru in Ventura County on July 8. 

Sadly, officials have announced that the actor is now presumed dead after rescue efforts failed to find her, but a recovery search is still underway.

Fans on social media and friends of the actor have been sharing messages asking for hope and prayers, but many have also been celebrating Rivera’s incredible talent and the joy she brought to so many in her role as Santana Lopez on Glee

Santana was first introduced in the Glee pilot as one of the popular cheerleaders, alongside Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) and Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris)—and soon her character grew more central to the plot as Rivera was made a full-time cast member in the show’s second season. Through Rivera’s nuanced performance, Santana gradually became an LGBTQ+ icon as her relationship with Brittany blossomed throughout the Fox series, leading to their gorgeous wedding in season six. 

Aside from Rivera’s acting chops and undeniable impact on her fans, the actor/singer delivered so many memorable performances that will be remembered and celebrated for many years to come. Here are some of our favorites. 

“Landslide”

Rivera, Morris, and guest star Gwyneth Paltrow give a moving rendition of the Fleetwood Mac classic as Santana starts coming to terms with her feelings for her best friend, Brittany. 

“Rumor Has It” / “Someone Like You”

Nobody does a mash-up quite like Glee, and these two Adele hits work wonderfully together, giving Rivera a chance to show off her powerhouse vocals. 

“If I Die Young”

Santana performed The Band Perry song during the tribute episode for Finn Hudson and actor Cory Monteith, who died of an overdose in 2013. Rivera’s raw, emotional performance will forever bring us to tears. 

“Here Comes the Sun”

Demi Lovato guest starred on season five of Glee as a love interest for Rivera’s character (while Santana and Brittany were on a break, of course). The two performed a lovely version of The Beatles’ classic together. 

“Smooth Criminal”

The staging and arrangement of this Michael Jackson tune are incredible. One of the best Glee numbers of all time. Period. 

“La Isla Bonita”

Rivera and Ricky Martin performed a dazzling duet of one of Madonna’s early hits—and the dancing is so great too. 

As an extra bonus, here is Rivera’s perfect delivery of Santana’s important monologue about cultural appropriation from the same episode. 

“Valerie”

We will never forgot Rivera’s performance Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” Two absolute icons. 

There are no words. Sending all of our thoughts and well-wishes to Naya Rivera’s friends and family. 

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