The Glee cast reunited to honor the legacy of Naya Rivera.
The reunion took take place at this year's 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards, and was timed to the 10-year anniversary of the coming out of Santana Lopez as a lesbian on the Fox musical comedy, a touchstone moment for Latinx LGBTQ+ representation on television. Rivera was also a two-time host of the GLAAD Awards.
The tribute was introduced by Demi Lovato, who portrayed Santana’s girlfriend on Glee. Participating cast members included 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.
In her introduction, Lovato noted how "heartbreaking" Rivera's loss was. She recognized how the character was "groundbreaking for closeted queer girls like I was at the time. And her ambition and accomplishments inspired Latina women all over the world."
Lovato also called on the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth to get engaged in activism and advocate for the Equality Act, which would give protections in employment, housing, and other areas to LGBTQ+ people nationwide.
Afterward, the Glee cast joined a Zoom room where they rejoiced in seeing one another but also remembered their late castmate.
"This year marks the 10th anniversary that Naya's character Santana Lopez came out on Glee," they stated. "Santana basically got disowned by her family, and as a lot of us know, that's a feeling too many LGBTQ kids know too well. The character of Santana Lopez was so important. With the exception of our show, there were almost no LGBTQ teens on television at the time, especially young Latina LGBTQ women."
"But things are getting better, because every year there's more LGBTQ representation on TV, and more diverse representation, which leads to more acceptance and more kindness. We are so very proud to be part of that trajectory, and we're very proud to honor our incredible friend, Naya Rivera tonight," they said.
The cast also shared a message from Rivera's mother, Yolanda Previtire: "Naya would be honored to receive this recognition. When I was told that Santana would be a lesbian, she called me to let me know and I asked her how did she feel about that. And she said, 'I feel great about it.' Little did we know that she would impact so many people in the LGBTQ community. Her desire was to always be an advocate to those who did not have a voice. I don't believe that she realized how important she was to this world. I am grateful that my eldest daughter helped to change the landscape of how we view and see each other. Thank you, GLAAD for keeping my daughter's legacy alive."
The cast of Glee then "passed the baton" of representation to the new winner of Outstanding Comedy Series, the category in which the groundbreaking Ryan Murphy show won twice: Schitt's Creek.
Niecy Nash hosted this year's GLAAD Awards, which honored LGBTQ+ excellence in film, television, and journalism. The virtual ceremony, in partnership with Google, aired on GLAAD’s YouTube Thursday. The event is available to stream on Hulu until the end of June.
Watch the Glee tribute below.