Naya Marie Rivera (born January 12, 1987)[3] is an American actress and singer, known for playing Santana Lopez on Fox Broadcasting's musical comedy-drama television series Glee. Her first solo single "Sorry" was released on September 17, 2013, featuring her then-fiancé Big Sean.[4]


 [hide*1 Early life

Early life[edit]Edit

Rivera was born[3] and raised in ValenciaCalifornia, and has lived in or around Los Angeles for most of her life. Rivera is of half Puerto Rican, a quarterAfrican American, and a quarter German descent.[5] Her parents are Yolanda, a former model, and George Rivera.[6][7] Her brother is NFL tight end Mychal Rivera,[8] and her younger sister is runway model Nickayla Rivera.[9] 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.[10]


1991–2008: Career beginnings[edit]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.[10] The show received positive reviews and high ratings initially, but it was cancelled soon after star Redd Foxx suffered a sudden heart attack on set.[11] 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-AirFamily MattersLive ShotBaywatchSmart GuyThe JerseyHouse BlendEven 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.[12] She was later featured in episodes of 8 Simple Rules and CSI: Miami.[10][13] In between auditions and roles, Rivera worked jobs as a telemarketer, a nanny and a greeter at an Abercrombie & Fitch store.[14] 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.[15]

2009–present: Breakthrough and acclaim with Glee, musical solo debut[edit]Edit

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.[13]

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".[16] She has described Santana as "your typical high school cheerleader, for the most part,"[16] explaining: "She's really mean and loves boys. She's really witty so I love playing her."[16] 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."[17] Rivera enjoys the fact Santana is competitive and headstrong as she herself shares those traits, but dislikes Santana's mean streak.[18] 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".[16] Santana played a more prominent part in the last nine episodes of Glee's first season.[19] 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."[20]

[1][2]Rivera at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2010

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.[21] 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.[22][23]

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.[24]

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".[25] 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,[26] TV Guide's Best Performances of 2011,[27] MTV's Best TV Characters of 2011,[28] as well as others.

In the second half of the series' third season, Rivera's critical acclaim and featured role continued.[citation needed] She was given the opportunity to do a duet withRicky Martin,[29] and worked with Gloria Estefan, who was cast as Santana's mother.[30]

In May 2011, it was announced that Rivera had signed a deal with Columbia Records to produce a solo album.[31]

As the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards approached, Rivera was listed by many critics and media outlets as deserving of a nomination.[who?] The Hollywood Reporterincluded her in their "Emmy 2012: Supporting Players" photo shoot,[32] and Rivera was also honored by E!,[33] Hitfix,[34] TV Guide,[35] and others. She was also chosen by the TV Academy to take part in a promotional video for the upcoming awards ceremony. Regarding her awards season buzz, Rivera commented to The Hollywood Reporter, "For people to even think that I'd be considered or a good candidate for a supporting actress nomination is mind-blowing to me."[36]

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.[37]

Rivera's debut single "Sorry," featuring her fiancé at the time, Big Sean, was released as a digital download on September 17, 2013.[38] On May 1, 2014, it was reported that Rivera was dropped from Columbia, due to her debut single under performing.[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][42][43][44]

Media appearances[edit]Edit

In 2011, Rivera hosted the San Francisco GLAAD Media Awards.[45] In November 2011, Rivera and Amber Riley performed at the 10th Annual Celebration of Dreams Event for the Dream Foundation.[46] In December 2011, Rivera was revealed as the newest celebrity spokesperson for ProActiv.[47] On March 24, 2012, she co-hosted the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York with 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.[48]

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.[49] In December 2012, Rivera attended the annual Trevor Live event, where she performed her take on the song "Silent Night."[50]

Rivera has starred in a recent 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).[51]

Public image[edit]Edit

In April 2012, Rivera was featured on the cover of Latina magazine.[52] The following month she was also featured in the inaugural issue of Cosmo for Latinas,[53] and was selected by People en Español for their 50 Most Beautiful list.[54] In May 2012, Rivera made FHM's 100 Sexiest Women List, coming in at number 39.[55] She made the Maxim Hot 100 list for the third year in a row, moving up sixteen spots to number 27.[56] On the 2012 AfterEllen 'Hot 100 list' she was again ranked #1. She posed nude for the May 2013 issue of Allure magazine.[57]

Personal life[edit]Edit

Rivera began dating recording artist Big Sean in April 2013.[58] They announced their engagement in October 2013,[58] but subsequently ended the engagement in April 2014.[59]

Rivera's brother, Mychal is a tight end for the Oakland Raiders.[60] Their sister, Nickayla, is a model.

Rivera dedicates her time to various charitable organizations,[61] including GLAAD,[48] The Trevor Project,[50] Stand Up to Cancer,[62] The Elephant Project[63] and The Sunshine Foundation.[64]

Rivera took up songwriting at the age of 15, declaring in one interview, " passion for music is one of my greatest loves."[5][65] In 2008, Rivera completed an 8-week screenwriting workshop at the New York Film Academy.[66][67] She has stated that if she could not act or sing she would work as a writer.[68]

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. "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."[69]


Year Title Role Notes
2002 The Master of Disguise Captain America Kid[70] Deleted Scene
2009 Frankenhood Hottie Credited erroneously as Naya Maria Rivera[71]
2011 Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Santana Lopez 3D Concert Film
2013 The Naughty List Sparkle Animated Christmas Movie
2014 At the Devil's Door Vera Moreno Film debut
Year Title Role Notes
1991–92 The Royal Family Hillary Winston Regular role
1992–93 Family Matters Gwendolyn Episodes: "Just One Date", "Heart Strings", "Mama's Wedding"
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"
1997–99 Smart Guy Kelly


Episodes: "Baby, It's You and You and You", "Never Too Young"
1999 The Jersey Girl #2 Episode: "Be True to You"
2002 House Blend Chloe Television pilot
2002 Even Stevens Charlene Episode: "Short Story"
2002–04 Pajama Rama Herself Host
2002–06 The Bernie Mac Show Donna Recurring role (Seasons 2–5): 11 episodes
2003 Soul Food Lauryn Episodes: "Truth's Consequences", "Nobody's Child"
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–present[72] Glee Santana Lopez Season 1: Recurring Role

Season 2–present: Main Cast

2010 When I Was 17 Herself Episode 28, with Carmelo Anthony and Taye Diggs
2012 The Glee Project Herself (Guest Star) Season 2, Episode 4: "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[73] The Real Housewives of Atlanta Herself Season 6, Episode 26: "Secrets Revealed"


See also: Glee discography===Singles[edit]===

Year Title Peak chart positions Sales Album
US US Rhythmic UK


2013 "Sorry" (feat. Big Sean) 37 73 81
  • US: 34,000
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Guest singles[edit]Edit

Music videos[edit]Edit

Year Artist Song Title
2002 B2K "Why I Love You" "1:47" [75]
2012 2Cellos "Supermassive Black Hole"[76]

Stage work[edit]Edit

Year Title Role
2006–07 U Don't Know Me Keila

Awards and nominations[edit]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 Won
TV Land Awards Future Classics (with: Glee Cast) Won
Imagen Awards Best Supporting Actress—Television Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music: Group 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 Nominated
Grammy Award Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (Don't Stop Believin) Nominated
Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (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
ALMA Awards Favorite Female Music Artist Won
2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series 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
My TV Awards Supporting Actress in a Comedy Won
NewNowNext Awards Cause You're Hot Won
ALMA Awards Best Female Music Artist Won
ALMA Awards Favorite TV Actress – Comedy Won
2013 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series 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 Pending
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