Naya Rivera Through the Years: ‘Glee,’ Motherhood and More

Naya Rivera Through the Years: ‘Glee,’ Motherhood and More

Naya Rivera made a name for herself with her role as Santana Lopez on Glee, but her acting career started long before that.

The Santa Clarita, California, native appeared in Kmart commercials as an infant and landed her first TV role at the age of 4 when she joined the cast of The Royal Family. In 1992, she was nominated for a Young Artist Award for playing Hillary Winston on the short-lived CBS sitcom.

After making appearances on shows including Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Baywatch in the 1990s, Rivera scored a recurring role on The Bernie Mac Show. She was initially hired for one episode, but her character, Donna, ended up making 11 appearances between 2002 and 2006.

The actress made her breakthrough in 2009 when she joined the cast of Glee. Initially, her cheerleader character was seen as cold-hearted and mean, but over time she became a pivotal member of the glee club at William McKinley High School. Santana came out as a lesbian during the Fox series’ third season, a particularly poignant moment for viewers in the LGBTQ community.

During her time on Glee, Rivera won a SAG Award and received a Grammy nomination, among other accolades. After the musical dramedy ended in 2015, she starred on Lifetime’s Devious Maids and YouTube Premium’s Step Up.

Throughout the years, fans became invested in the singer’s personal life and relationships. Months after her engagement to rapper Big Sean ended, she married her ex-boyfriend Ryan Dorsey in July 2014. The couple welcomed a son, Josey, the following year before divorcing in June 2018.

In July 2020, Rivera was declared a missing person after going for a boat ride with Josey at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California. Josey was found asleep on their rented boat with his life vest on, but Rivera was nowhere in sight. Officials later announced that the star was presumed dead.

Scroll down to see photos of Rivera through the years.