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Glee star Naya Rivera dies aged 33 after body found in lake


Naya Rivera dead
Naya has died aged 33 (Picture: Getty)

Glee star Naya Rivera has died aged 33 after disappearing during a boating trip.

Authorities confirmed today that her body has been found in their search and rescue mission on Lake Piru, California after the actress went missing on a boating trip with her four-year-old son Josey.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Office announced they were ‘confident’ the body they had found was that of Naya’s.

‘Our hearts go out to her family, friends and fans during this difficult time.’ they later tweeted.

‘An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of her death.’

Naya had rented a pontoon boat at the lake on Wednesday (July 8) but when staff found the overdue boat later that afternoon, only her son on board while Rivera was missing.

A search and rescue operation was undertaken at Lake Piru, but she was not found for several days.

According to TMZ, Josey told authorities that his mother had jumped into the lake, but did not come back up during their trip. The child is now safe with family. 

Rivera’s car was found in a nearby parking lot, with her purse in the vehicle.

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Glee star Naya Rivera dies aged 33
Naya is survived by her son Josey (Picture: Terma/SL / BACKGRID)

Glee star Naya Rivera dies aged 33
Josey was found on the boat alone (Picture: @nayarivera)

The actress’s final Instagram post came just before she went missing, as she shared a sweet selfie of herself kissing Josey with the caption: ‘Just the two of us.’

On 2 July, she posted a selfie with the poignant caption: ‘no matter the year, circumstance, or strifes everyday you’re alive is a blessing. make the most of today and every day you are given. tomorrow is not promised.’

Her passing was confirmed on the anniversary of the death of her former Glee co-star Cory Monteith.

Members of the Glee cast were pictured together with Naya’s family at the lake where she disappeared.

Stars Amber Riley, Heather Morris, Chris Colfer and Kevin McHalle held hands with members of Naya’s at the site where she was last seen.

The powerful image of the group was shown on ABC7 after police announced they had found a body during their search for the missing actress.

Naya began her acting career aged just four in the Eddie Murphy-produced sitcom The Royal Family, in which she played Hillary Winston in 15 episodes.

She went on to star in shows like Family Matters, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, Smart Guy and Even Stevens, and appeared in 11 episodes of The Bernie Mac Show after initially being hired for one guest episode.

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GLEE: Naya Rivera as Santana
Naya played Santana on Glee (Picture: FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)

However, it was in 2009 when she landed her breakthrough role as Santana Lopez in the Fox musical comedy Glee.

As the bitchy cheerleader, Naya’s character navigated storylines including relationships with Finn Hudson (the late Cory Monteith) and Noah Puckerman (the late Mark Salling) and coming to terms with being a lesbian.

In the last series of the Fox show, Santana married fellow McKinley cheerleader Brittany (Heather Morris).


Santana and Brittany marry on Glee
Santana and Brittany tie the knot in the show (Picture: FOX Image Collection/Getty Images)

GLEE cast
Naya won a SAG Award with the cast (Picture: FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)

Since Glee, Naya made her film debut in the 2014 horror film At The Devil’s Door and later starred in the Charlie Sheen comedy Mad Families.

On the small screen, the actress starred as Blanca in Devious Maids, before landing the role of teacher Collette Jones in the YouTube Red series Step Up: High Water, a spin-off of the dance movie. 

The show was cancelled after two seasons, but was picked up by Starz for a third series, with Naya celebrating the news in May. 

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In 2013, Rivera broke into music as a solo artist, releasing the single Sorry with her then-boyfriend Big Sean featured. 

In 2011, as part of the Glee cast, Naya received a Grammy nomination for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals for the stars’ rendition of Don’t Stop Believin’.

She also received a Screen Actors Guild award as part of the Glee cast for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy. 

In her private life, Naya dated Glee co-star Mark Salling in 2009, and in her autobiography Sorry Not Sorry, she claimed she was ‘not totally shocked’ when the actor was arrested for child abuse images possession in 2015.


Big Sean and Naya Rivera
Naya was previously engaged to Big Sean (Picture: FilmMagic)

She wrote: ‘My son’s nanny actually told me about it when the story broke. I can’t say I was totally shocked, but still — WTF? Then I had no doubt that God really did have my back along the way.’

Salling, who ended the relationship, took his own life in 2018.

Naya got engaged to singer and rapper Big Sean in 2013, but split in April 2014 – with the star beginning a relationship with actor Ryan Dorsey shortly afterwards.

In July 2014, they tied the knot in Mexico, on the same date that Naya had been due to marry Big Sean, and in September 2015, the couple welcomed their son Josey.


Naya Rivera and Ryan Dorsey
Naya and Ryan married in 2014, before welcoming their son a year later (Picture: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for March Of Dimes)

However, in November 2016, Rivera filed for divorce but called off the separation 11 months later. 

In November 2017, Rivera was charged with misdemeanour domestic battery after allegedly hitting Dorsey in the head and face, but the charge was dismissed two months later at the request of Shameless actor Dorsey.

After refiling for divorce in December 2017, the couple finalised their split in June 2018, and agreed to share joint custody of Josey.

Dorsey has since been reunited with his son and paid a visit to the site where Rivera was last seen while the family waited for updates.



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