Glee star Chris Colfer honored his former colleague Naya Rivera, who tragically drowned in a California lake earlier this month, in a beautiful tribute in which he spoke of how his friend’s portrayal of Santana Lopez touched so many LGBTQ+ people.
“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,” Colfer wrote in a piece that ran in Variety Tuesday, nearly two weeks since she went missing after swimming in Lake Piru with her son, who was found sleeping on the boat she’d rented.
“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?” he wrote.
“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,” Colfer wrote.
For six seasons on Glee, Colfer broke ground as one of the first out gay men to play gay in a leading ensemble role as the ultratalented Kurt Hummel. In subsequent seasons, Rivera made history playing Santana, one of TV’s first Latinx lesbian teens. Colfer’s abiding love and respect for his friend is clear in the tribute that ran on Variety on Tuesday.
"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," he wrote.
Colfer, who is the author of the Land of Stories book series, also spoke of Rivera’s singular sense of humor and how he felt “protected” in her presence.
The pair often played adversaries throughout the years, with Santana dressing down Kurt with her barbed tongue (even when she was being nice), but Rivera’s imprint on Colfer is lasting.
“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,” he wrote. “Just being in Naya’s presence made you feel protected and regardless of the situation, you knew she’d have your back.”
When Rivera was missing at Lake Piru, Colfer and other cast members including Heather Morris, Amber Riley, and Kevin McHale joined the search with her family.
Read Colfer’s elegy to Rivera on Variety.