Naya Marie Rivera (born January 12, 1987) is an American actress and singer, known for playing Santana Lopez on Fox Broadcasting's musical comedy-drama television series Glee. In 2011, Rivera signed a recording contract with Columbia Records to release her debut album. The lead single "Sorry" was released on September 17, 2013, featuring her fiancé Big Sean.
Rivera was born and raised in Valencia, Santa Clarita, California, and has lived in or around Los Angeles for most of her life. Rivera is of half Puerto Rican, a quarter African American, and a quarter German descent. Her parents are George and Yolanda Rivera. Her brother is NFL tight end Mychal Rivera. Her younger sister is runway model Nickayla Rivera. At eight or nine months old, Naya began to be represented by the same talent agent as her mother, who had moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling.
1991-2008: Career beginnings:
As a baby, Rivera appeared in commercials for Kmart, but her first significant acting job was at the age of four when she appeared as Hillary Winston in The Royal Family sitcom in 1991. The show received positive reviews and high ratings initially, but after star Redd Foxx suffered a sudden heart attack on set, the show was soon canceled. 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-Air, Family Matters, Live Shot, Baywatch, Smart Guy, The Jersey, House Blend, Even 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. She was later featured in episodes of 8 Simple Rules and CSI: Miami. In between auditions and roles, Rivera worked jobs as a telemarketer, a nanny and a greeter at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. 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.
2009-11: Breakthrough and acclaim with Glee:
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.
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". She has described Santana as "your typical high school cheerleader, for the most part," explaining: "She's really mean and loves boys. She's really witty so I love playing her." 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." Rivera enjoys the fact Santana is competitive and headstrong as she herself shares those traits, but dislikes Santana's mean streak. 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". Santana played a more prominent part in the last nine episodes of Glee's first season. 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."
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. 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.
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.
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". 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, TV Guide's Best Performances of 2011, MTV's Best TV Characters of 2011, as well as others.
In the second half of the series' third season, Rivera's critical acclaim and featured role continued. She was given the opportunity to do a duet with Ricky Martin, and worked with Gloria Estefan, who was cast as Santana's mother. As the season ended, there was uncertainty about which characters and actors would return in the fourth season, once a large portion of the characters had graduated high school. While attending the Fox Upfronts in May 2012, Rivera confirmed that she would be returning.
2011-present: Debut studio album:
In May 2011, it was announced that Rivera had signed a deal with Columbia Records to produce a solo album. That same month, Rivera hosted the San Francisco GLAAD Media Awards. In November 2011, Rivera and Amber Riley performed at the 10th Annual Celebration of Dreams Event for the Dream Foundation. In December 2011, Rivera was revealed as the newest celebrity spokesperson for ProActiv. 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.
As the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards approached, Rivera was listed by many critics and media outlets as deserving of a nomination.The Hollywood Reporter included her in their "Emmy 2012: Supporting Players" photo shoot, and Rivera was also honored by E!, Hitfix, TV Guide, 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."
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. In December 2012, Rivera attended the annual Trevor Live event, where she performed her take on the song "Silent Night." That same month, the duo 2Cellos released the second single to their second album, a cover of Muse's "Supermassive Black Hole" featuring Rivera. She also starred in the music video for the song.
She has also 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).
Rivera's debut single "Sorry," featuring fiancé Big Sean, was released as a digital download on September 17, 2013. Her debut album is set for early 2014.
In April 2012, Rivera was featured on the cover of Latina magazine. The following month she was also featured in the inaugural issue of Cosmo for Latinas, and was selected by People en Español for their 50 Most Beautiful list. In May 2012, Rivera made FHM's 100 Sexiest Women List, coming in at number 39. She made the Maxim Hot 100 list for the third year in a row, moving up sixteen spots to number 27. On the 2012 AfterEllen 'Hot 100 list' she was again ranked #1. She posed nude for the May 2013 issue of Allure magazine.
Rivera began dating recording artist Big Sean in April 2013. The couple announced their engagement in October 2013. On April 9th, Big Sean released a statement through a rep, saying that he has called off their engagement.
Rivera's brother, Mychal is a tight end for the Oakland Raiders. Their sister, Nickayla, is a model.
Rivera dedicates her time to various charitable organizations, including GLAAD,The Trevor Project,Stand Up to Cancer, The Elephant Project and The Sunshine Foundation. She took up songwriting at the age of 15. According to Rivera, "My passion for music is one of my greatest loves." Rivera has stated that if she could not act or sing she would work as a writer. She has completed several screenplays and television scripts.
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."
Credited erroneously as Naya Maria Rivera
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
3D Concert Film
The Naughty List
Animated Christmas Movie
The Royal Family
Episodes: "Just One Date", "Heart Strings", "Mama's Wedding"
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Episode: "Bundle of Joy"
The Sinbad Show
Episode: "It's My Party, I'll Cry If I Want To"
Episode: "Another Day, Another Story"
Episodes: "Baby, It's You and You and You", "Never Too Young"
Episode: "Be True to You"
Episode: "Short Story"
The Bernie Mac Show
Recurring role (Seasons 2-5): 11 episodes
Episodes: "Truth's Consequences", "Nobody's Child"
8 Simple Rules
Episode: "Stand and Deliver"
Episode: "Power Trip"
Season 1: recurring cast member,
Season 2-present: main cast member,
When I Was 17
Episode 28, with Carmelo Anthony and Taye Diggs
The Glee Project
Herself (Guest Star)
Season 2, Episode 4: "Sexuality"
This Is How I Made It
Episode 3, with Chris Brown
Styled to Rock