Matthew’s Place
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Matthew’s Place

Tribute: Naya Rivera

by Judy Bokao

The world is mourning an incredible TV star and entertainer. We’re mourning a role model so many people who looked up to. Naya Rivera was one of the strongest women who ever lived and she was born in Santa Clarita, California, on January 12, 1987.

Her big break came when she appeared on the comedy musical series Glee as Santana Lopez, where she played a McKinley High School mean girl cheerleader who joined a group of misfits in an acapella school club. Her talent led to her being promoted as a screen regular.

In her personal life, she has gone through a lot but still held herself with grace. The people who knew her personally have described her as a woman with a heart of gold — strong too, but mostly they all remark on what a great mother she was. Her love for her son surpassed everything else in her life. Even in her last moments, she did all she could do to save him from drowning.

She was indeed an amazing mother and she always put her family first. Her friends remembered her as a woman who ready to go beyond her reach just to help those in need, and she would often sacrifice so that others would have — what an amazing heart.

She dedicated her time to charitable organizations including GLAAD and Stand Up to Cancer. She was a celebrity who had depth and empathy — always ready to offer an helping hand. The world will miss her joy, her beautiful voice, her laughter, and her desire and dedication to society and the community as a whole.

One of the greatest things she will be remembered for is her role on Glee where she played a lesbian. Naya played cheerleader Santana Lopez, who discovered she was a lesbian when she fell for her best friend, Brittany. She played this role perfectly on TV which inspired other young members of the LGBTQ+ community to be themselves. Her role gave them a sense of hope that they could mingle in the community as everybody else and not be ashamed of their sexual orientation. Even off-screen she would often stand up for the rights of LGBTQ+ community.

Because of her role, she was able to give a voice to young queer people. Through her character, they saw that they could be treated equally and loved by everyone. She made many young people appreciate their sexuality and accept themselves without fear of judgement. This is really important for the LGBTQ+ community because of the discrimination that it often receives. In fact, some people normally refer to them as cursed and outcasts that should not be included in a community. Her role as Santana gave people an insight of what LGBTQ+ youth go through when trying to come to terms with their sexuality.

It acted as a conversation starter and led to more people choosing to openly and courageously announce their sexual orientation. So many young people are afraid to come out because of how the entire society will perceive them, but this role by Naya as Santana on Glee was a real game-changer for many young people. She gave a voice to the voiceless and courage to the weak.

This also meant a lot because during that time very few TV shows wanted to bring up sexuality of young teens. Santana and Brittany’s relationship on Glee felt different, and far more relatable, than those other portrayals. To start, the girls were regular high schoolers and just coming to terms with who they were. The show did a good job in showing every aspect of the journey — the good, bad, highs and lows.

Everyone should learn to accept the LGBTQ+ community as they are the same as the rest of the population — we’re all human. The community should be able to come out and without fear and be able to stand no matter what because they are no different but the same as everyone else.

We will surely miss Naya and may her soul rest in eternal peace.

About the Author:

Judy Bokao is 20 years old and was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.

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Matthew’s Place is by and for LGBTQ+ youth and a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation l #EraseHate

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Matthew's Place

Matthew's Place

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email patrick@matthewshepard.org

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