How Naya Rivera got her start in Hollywood

For many theatre nerds and pop culture junkies, actor and singer Naya Rivera is a true icon. Widely known for her role as Santana Lopez in the hit Fox series, Glee, which ran from 2009 to 2015, the California native later had a recurring role on the Lifetime series, Devious Maids. She also starred on the YouTube Original Series, Step Up: High Water. It’s safe to say Rivera is widely respected in Hollywood, which made the news of her disappearance in California on July 7, 2020, especially heartbreaking.

Rivera, who celebrated her 33rd birthday in January 2020, was officially declared missing by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office when she failed to return a pontoon boat she had rented at Lake Piru with her son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, CNN reported. Captain Eric Buschow told Us Weekly about the incident, “Another vest [was found] on board the boat for an adult, so it looks like [Rivera] was not wearing [hers]. The son said they were in the water swimming together. He came up and got back up on the boat, but she did not. He was found on the boat by a passerby. He was found fast asleep on the boat by himself.”

Rivera is presumed dead in a drowning accident and is still missing as of this writing.

While fans wait for news about Rivera, let’s take a look back on how she got her very early start in Hollywood.

Naya Rivera was an accomplished child star

Naya Rivera was born and raised in California, so her straight shot to Hollywood makes perfect sense. She first appeared in TV commercials and then landed her first big role on the CBS sitcom, The Royal Family, at 4 years old in 1991. Talk about a go-getter, right? It was clear Rivera had star potential, which was recognized when she received her first award nomination — the Young Artist Award — for her work as Hillary Winston on the show. 

She also received praise from her fellow cast members, like The Royal Family alum, Jackee Harry. “Prayers up for the lovely Naya Rivera,” Harry tweeted on July 8, 2020, about Rivera’s disappearance. “We starred alongside one another in her first very television series, The Royal Family, and I’ve watched her career blossom ever since. Please God, don’t cut this life short.” 

In addition to The Royal Family, Rivera also had roles in Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Smart Guy.

After years of TV series appearances, she landed her breakout role as the sassy, strong Santana Lopez in 2009, and won hearts on so many levels. 

Nicki Swift’s thoughts are with Rivera’s family during this tragic time.

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