The Santana Lopez Moments That Changed Our Lives — And The World

Our TV Team has spent the last two weeks reliving some of our favorite moments from Naya Rivera’s world-changing work on Glee. As we did, of course, we shared with each other over and over how her portrayal of Santana Lopez also changed our worlds. And so we decided to grieve her passing the only way we really know how: by watching and writing about television. We thought maybe you’d like to join us. Below are each of our favorite Santana Lopez moments. Some of them are shared by many of us, and probably by you too. We’d love to read your favorite memories in the comments.


Episode 209: “Special Education”

santana singing valerie

“Well sometimes I go out by myself, and I look across the water. And I think of all the things, what you’re doing, and in my head I paint a picture.”

Written by Valerie Anne

I came out as a lesbian around the time Glee started, but as Glee went on and I loved it more and more (until I didn’t, but that’s beside the point), I also came out as a huge and utter nerd. Loving Glee, a show that was decidedly out of the ordinary and something that a lot of people in my life looked down on, was considered weird and nerdy and after years of trying to blend in, Glee made me ready to stand out. I loved Buffy growing up, but I quickly learned that not everyone was into cheesy sci-fi, and “nerd” wasn’t exactly a badge of honor in the 90s/early 2000s, so I only mentioned Buffy to people who mentioned it to me first.

But Glee encouraged me to let me freak flag fly, and so I did. It was the beginning of a long journey to accepting my nerdiness, to embracing my inner geek, to being passionate about what I love, even if not everyone in my life will understand or even support it. And Santana! Naya was captivating and talented and impossible to ignore, even before her character had a name. Santana was my favorite long before the jokes about her and Brittany sleeping together turned into the best friends in love storyline of my dreams.

So in Season 2, when I heard those opening notes of a song I knew so well, when Santana Lopez herself sang my name right there on my TV screen, it felt like a gift just for me. A “thank you” for being an unapologetic champion of this weird, wacky show. I remember exactly where I was, exactly how it felt that night. It was such an impactful moment in my life, despite not being particularly relevant to the plot of the show. It was just such a joyful, fun performance.

And clearly it wasn’t only a favorite of mine, because Santana brought it back for another energetic take on it in their 100th episode to get Brittany back into dancing. And Naya brought that same joy, that same energy, to the Glee Live tour and I got to be in the very same room with her while she sang that song, and it’s a memory I’ll likely never forget. So thank you, Naya. For your joy, for your talent, for teaching me how to be unapologetic about the things I love. Even though I never knew you personally, you will always be part of my life. Part of me.


Episode 215: “Sexy”

santana with a single tear

“Please say you love me back. Please.”

Written by Carmen

“He’s just a stupid boy.”

It shot right into my heart like a lightning bolt. We’re almost ten years later and I’ll never forget her cadence as she says it, the hurt that flashes across her face. The pain I had as I realized how many times I had repeated that same line to my closest friends, the ones I had always been in love with, the ones I would have been terrified to admit that were true if asked.

There was always a “stupid boy” and he never treated her the same way I would. He never remembered her birthday, or noticed how much work it took to get her hair just like that over her shoulder. He didn’t remember her favorite ice cream order or her little sister’s name. I never understood why, why any girl would choose “a stupid boy.” Until, like Santana, I did.

Written by Valerie Anne

Santana’s entire story arc mirrored mine in so many ways. I was coming out around the same time she was, I was falling in love and having my heart broken right around then, too. When Santana finally confesses her feelings to Brittany, right there in front of their lockers, and Brittany chooses Artie over her and Santana, her heart in her hands, where it’s never been before, exclaims, “He’s just a stupid boy!” I felt that. The way she delivered it, the hurt and desperation in her eyes. Naya absolutely slayed that scene and it has stuck with me ever since. The fierce, confident, swaggering Santana having this quiet moment where her voice is actually quivering a little was so impactful. The nervous, darting looks. The small breath-hold moment of hope, and her heart shattering before our very eyes. Because the thing is, being brave and speaking the truth doesn’t always go the way you plan. Coming out isn’t always rainbows and parades. And Naya really got to the heart of that pain in a way not many actors had done yet.

Written by Riese

I’ve written a few words already on the coming out scene that resonated with me more than anything before or since. Perhaps you’ve read them, even. It remains poignantly jarring in its specificity and its place in the great cannon of Television Coming Out Scenes. Glee never shied away from making radical changes in characters or basic show universe elements without an explanation or any apparent logic, but they brought Santana’s actual written history on the show — and she wasn’t originally written as gay — to bear on her present. In doing so, they revealed a rarely-discussed but entirely valid coming out narrative.

And it worked. It fit. Actively pursuing and seducing a series of strapping young men throughout high school is not incongruous with eventually realizing you’re gay! When you look back you see that those pursuits were always part of a game, a trick, a strategy, a story, a status grab. They were something to do. A way to stir shit up, often with Brittany by her side. They were never about the kind of love she feels for Brittany, or even how she felt about Dani. Her relationships with men sometimes become more misandric than romantic in retrospect.

I remember early in my coming-out-to-myself period I was hooking up with a girl in relative secrecy for reasons irrelevant right now, but it was strange to me how easily I kept the secret and kept wanting to do it. I wanted it for itself. With boys, it was about doing it but also about what doing it said about me and what I said about it. They were trees falling in a forest and with nobody around to hear them, my desire often faded. People don’t always evolve, sometimes they just change. And that’s a true story, too.

“‘Cause I’ve built my life around you…”

Written by Carmen

What’s magnificent, absolutely stunning and awe-worthy, about “Landslide” is that when I listen to the song all these years later — I am genuinely surprised how much of the song is actually Gwyneth Paltrow? Santana’s soft “uh-oh” doesn’t come in until the first chorus, but she’s all I ever hear. Her quiet — almost embarrassed because it’s so vulnerable and what will it all mean — glances to Brittany from behind Holly’s shoulders are all I see. Her hair pulled to one side. Her off white blouse. The way she’s afraid to look up off the floor and into the choir room.

The tight clasped hug that comes after, holding on to her best friend for dear life because everything around them is changing and they are each other’s only certainty.

Anyway, a fun fact about me is that very faaaar into my messy baby gay years, when I was always running from someone’s bed to someone else’s bed and heartbreak to heartbreak, Dixie Chick’s “Landslide” came on at my favorite coffee shop while I was in line to order a hibiscus iced tea and vanilla iced latte. I turned on my heels and ran out of there with a quickness, rather than risk the barista seeing me cry in public.


Episode 218: “Born This Way”

“The only straight I am is straight up bitch.”

Written by Carmen

We spend a lot of time talking about Santana Lopez’s musical numbers, and I suppose for a show like Glee that’s pretty par for the course — but there’s nothing that made Santana more alive than Naya Rivera’s impeccable comic timing. Cast members and press alike have often fawned over the years that she could learn those iconic monologues the morning of shooting and never flub a line once during taping. She was a professional and her memory was a steel trap. Of all those famous tirades and one-liners, none warms my heart like “The only straight I am, is straight up Bitch.”

I mean sure, she was blackmailing Karofsky at the time, but hey coming out — and the self-loathing that often comes with it — is messy business. I’m forever grateful that Glee didn’t sidestep that. Lesbians don’t have to be “saintly” to be fawned over on primetime television in homes across America. We can be the bitch. Scratch that, we can be the Boss Bitch. Santana taught us well.

Written by Heather

It’s important to me that Santana Lopez was a bitch. It’s important because, before Santana Lopez, basically every character we considered “positive” lesbian representation was: a) white, and b) nice. Palatable. Gentle. Sweet. Non-threatening to the characters inside the show or outside in the audience. The kind of lesbians who would allow straight people to wrap themselves up in the cozy fantasy that gay people are just like them.

And Santana was not that. She was truth to power, unafraid of confrontation, destruction when absolutely necessary. She was unapologetic ambition and talent. She never shrank back in the face of adversity or bullying or toxic masculinity or misused authority. She was mean sometimes, maybe even a lot of times, and she understood later that, yes, it was coming from a place of fear and insecurity because she was closeted. And while coming to terms with her sexuality and feelings for Brittany certainly softened her — and always and especially with Brittany herself — it never weakened her resolve or ability to deliver a devastating verbal barb with the precision of an assassin.

We humanize terrible white men in our society in large part because white men are often the only people we humanize in our stories. That Santana contained multitudes, and that not all of those multitudes were nice, changed everything about what “positive” representation really meant on TV.


Episode 219: “Rumors”

“I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Written by Carmen

What Naya Rivera did to transform Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” is nothing short of magic. And yes, we talk about Naya Rivera’s voice + magic a lot in the same sentence — which is not our fault, because it’s simply the truth and we cannot be held accountable for that — but specifically what I mean is this: In a single three-minute cover, Naya Rivera turned a nearly 40 year old song into an instant lesbian classic.

Less than six months after the “Rumors” episode of Glee aired, my cousin got married. Gay marriage had only recently become legalized in New York State, and DOMA had yet to be struck down nationwide. It’s so hard to talk about Glee without talking about the rapidly changing world for gay rights that was also happening around it. As my cousin walked down the aisle in her handsome white tuxedo to meet her wife, my mother sang “Songbird,” their song of choice. When I hear it now of course I only hear Naya, but I also remember my silver bridesmaid dress with the sweetheart neckline and my rust orange fall flowers bouquet. I remember crying as I watched someone I love walk down the aisle to marry the woman of her dreams.

It was then as it is now, “I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before…”

Written by Heather

It’s hard to pick a favorite Santana solo, but I think it’s gotta be “Songbird,” for me, both for Santna’s story arc and for Naya Rivera’s performance. I’ve listened to it about a gazillion times over the last many years, and it always gets me in my guts, but I forget what a punch it really is to my heart’s face to watch the scene. The transcendent vulnerability, more than we’ve ever seen from Santana. After her intense internal struggle, the softness and confidence in her face when she says she knows it’s right. The pleading of her posture when she sings I love you, I love you, I love you. Santana leaves it all at Brittany’s feet in that choir room, and so did Naya.


Episode 220: “Prom Queen”

“Can’t I just have one night where I’m queen?”

Written by Drew

As many of you know, I didn’t watch Glee until earlier this year. So I’m going to leave the obviously iconic, emotional, perfect moments to the people who have lived with this show, this character, and Naya’s singular performance for years. But there are some smaller moments that I think are really worth remembering. Glee is very concerned with this idea of “the underdog.” And Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel are the show’s most prominent underdogs. Santana, the bitchy cheerleader, certainly didn’t originate as anything like an underdog and even as her character developed and she came out, she still was rarely written as such. But media’s idea of an underdog is skewed by 80s teen movies written by cis straight white men. Santana was harsh and mean and strong because she felt like she had to be. She didn’t have the space to be a victim like Rachel.

There’s a brief moment after Kurt is elected prom queen as a cruel joke that Santana rushes out of the room crying. The writers probably just wanted an excuse to create a three way parallel of hurt feelings between Kurt, Quinn, and Santana, but Naya’s performance justifies and deepens every word. “How could my running mate win and I didn’t? I mean, just because I hate everybody doesn’t mean they have to hate me too,” she cries. “I’m gonna be an outsider my whole life. Can’t I just have one night where I’m queen? Where I’m accepted?”

I love Santana’s relationship with Brittany because obviously Brittana 4 Ever, but I also love how Santana is able to be vulnerable with Brittany in a way she wouldn’t be with anyone else. She’s able to admit something embarrassing like her desire to just fit in, and, maybe more significantly, her knowledge that even with her cheerleader beauty she really does not. “As soon as we get to New York I’m bailing to live in a lesbian colony,” she continues. “Or Tribeca.” Just like that she can go from breaking your heart to making you laugh. She gave so much to this character even when the writers were preoccupied with the other more obvious underdogs.


Episode 306: “Mash Off”

“Don’t forget me, I beg.”

Written by Carmen

In my mind, there is no question that the “Rumor Has It/ Someone Like You” mash up is the greatest performance in the show’s history. The choreography, costumes, lighting, Amber Riley’s and Naya Rivera’s vocals — everyone came together and did what they had to do. It’s the single most thrilling three minutes the Glee ever produced.

But what makes it iconic for me are the story choices that Naya Rivera makes. First there’s the pause. You know the one. Right after Mercedes sings the first lines of “Rumor Has It,” the theatre goes dark and the beat drops out. Then Mercedes looks at Santana from the corner of her eye, as if to say “Girl can you do this?” And Santana gives the smallest nod before the microphone picks up a sigh. That’s when you knew — this was going to the next level.

Later, Santana cuts through the dancers and bellows, “Don’t Forget Me! I Beg!” As the camera cuts in tight. The entire rest of the verse Naya Rivera performs as a monologue in song. She looks to Brittany, she remembers their “dreams that came true” and then the “rumors have it” that ruined them all. Santana’s terrified that the rumors floating around McKinley are about to ruin Santana’s life, but maybe having Brittany will have made it all worth it.

Written by Valerie Anne

This song was easily one of the top three best performances on the entire run of Glee. It was beautifully choreographed, perfectly sung, but also the layered acting was absolutely stunning. So often on Glee they’d shoehorn a storyline to fit a song they wanted to do, or stretch a song to fit a plot, but with this mashup, it didn’t actually matter what the words were saying or whether or not they had anything to do with the plot of the episode. Everything you needed to know, every emotion you needed to feel, was emanating from Santana with crystal clearness. Punctuated with a slap to the face that reverberates through time and I can still hear to this very day, this entire scene had every ounce of Naya Rivera’s talents on full display.

Written by Riese

There are quantifiably positive assets to this mash-up: the song suits Mercedes and Santana vocally, it’s got good choreography, it’s a well-orchestrated mash-up the dresses are cute. But there’s a deeper level too: Santana singing and dancing like a person who’s just been told something terrible is about to happen but she’s not sure what that something will be and for now the show must go on. That “something” is really bad; not for its severity but because of its unfamiliarity. It’s like the difference between a hurricane and an alien invasion. The first is horrible but predictable. You’ve seen hurricanes on the news, in movies, read about them in school. The second could be anything. Santana shatters your heart to pieces here. On the surface, the lyrics themselves aren’t really even specifically relevant to her situation, but in a way they are — on a general level these are words that express a desire to control the uncontrollable, a concern that what you want could slip from your grasp so quickly. That pause in the beginning — Glee never pauses. It’s just so fucking manic, this show. But it actually lets silence tell its own story for a minute. “Don’t forget me,” she belts, after a moment of uncertainty. We won’t.

Written by Heather

Is this not generally understood to be the greatest song Glee ever recorded? If it’s not, well, I don’t even know. I can’t hear this song without thinking of the dozens of slow-mo gif sets circulating on Tumblr of Brittany and Santana circling each other, and I also can’t hear it without breaking out in chills all over my body, from my toes to my brain. Amber Riley and Naya Rivera’s voices together are raw power. The Troubletones deserved their own spin-off. They were my favorite grouping Glee ever did. And Finn deserved the slap in the face Santana jumped off the stage and gave him at the end of the performance.


Episode 307: “I Kissed a Girl”

“Every day just feels like a war.”

Written by Drew

This is my least favorite episode of Glee. It’s not actually the worst obviously but to follow up the remarkable “Mash Up” with an episode called “I Kissed a Girl” that turned out to be this felt cruel. Kurt’s coming out was a wish fulfillment fantasy for cis white gay men everywhere, but Santana is forced to suffer. And maybe that would’ve been more tolerable if the episode centered her feelings instead of… Finn’s. Okay! So why am I talking about this? Because even when Glee was at its worst, Santana always seemed to be the voice of reason. I don’t know how! Did the writers think she was being bitchy when really she was just speaking the truth? Did Naya adlib? I don’t know. But it was always such a relief.

Finn for some reason decides that it’s “Lady Music” week as if having a bunch of men ruin songs by women is an apology for outing a lesbian. Kurt and Blaine start by singing a cloying duet of P¡nk’s “Perfect.” Everybody is smiling and clapping and even Santana has a grin on her face. She seems to be condoning this in the face of all logic. But then… well, I’ll let her speak for herself: “Thank you, guys. Thank you, Finn, especially. You know with all the horrible crap I’ve been through in my life… now I get to add that.” Her little applause after is just perfect. Santana. Lopez.

Written by Carmen

This is it. This is it. The scene that gave me the final push I needed to come out of the closet.

For me there is a before, and an after. I’d never heard anyone describe how hard it is quite like this, how violent it feels to yourself, once you know who you are but you’re terrified of saying in the world: “I’ve tried so hard to push this feeling away, and keep it locked inside, but every day just feels like a war. And I walk around so mad at the world, but I’m really just fighting with myself. And I don’t wanna fight anymore, I’m just too tired. I have to just be me.”

Every day just feels like a war. By that point I had felt that way for years. And like Santana, I was so tired. I’ve often described that while watching this scene I wept, which is true. I used to think it was out of recognition, but now I know it was relief. It was resolution. It was ordering my steps.

I came out to my mother about a month after Santana came out to her abuela. To be honest, I don’t know if I would’ve done it if it hadn’t been for the smallest detail, sort of blurred in the background, almost off frame — there’s not a single recap that I’ve ever read that includes it, but there’s a Dominican flag on Abuelita’s refrigerator. She serves Santana arroz morro with either lechón or bistec to eat. Those aren’t generic Latinx details. Here is Santana, this Caribeña teenager, coming out to her abuela. Here’s Naya Rivera, this Black Puerto Rican actress who fought so hard against the producers for Santana’s coming out in the first place. If Santana Lopez, this small mouthy teenager could be brave enough to stop the war inside her — then maybe, just maybe, then I could be brave enough, too.


Episode 311: “Michael”

santana in a fedora

“I don’t know why, baby.”

Written by Valerie Anne

“Smooth Criminal”

In my opinion, this scene/song is one of the most underrated of the Glee canon. I don’t think people don’t like it as much as they never think about it or talk about it, but it was one of my favorite covers they did. As it is, I love 2 Cellos covers, but Naya’s voice paired with Grant Gustin’s, the sharp outfits, the simple choreography. It’s one of the least flashy numbers, but one of the best. Just two cellos, two actors, and a bunch of chairs in an empty room. But their voices fill it right up. Santana’s wail of, “I don’t know,” toward the end of the song reverberates around my ribcage every time I hear it. Not to mention that the whole setup for the number is Santana defending Blaine. Because Sanatana will cut anyone down with her vicious, vicious words no matter how much she loves them, but someone outside her found family attacks one of hers? You better believe they’ll regret it. (Also during this entire number she had a tape recorder taped to her “underboob,” a word that only Naya could have delivered in such a way that it’s not just part of our lexicon.)


Episode 317: “Dance With Somebody”

“With somebody who loves me.”

Written by Riese

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”

This is our SONG. By “our” I mean my friends and I but probably you and your friends too. When it comes on you scream and you jump and you dance like a kid to this timeless and utterly perfect pop song. Sometimes you hear it on the loudspeakers at Home Goods and feel like complaining to the manager for inappropriate context, but when it’s on in your car or at a party or a club it’s exhilarating and obviously very topical.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that we all know Whitney Houston had at least one relationship with a woman but was made to suppress and obscure her sexuality, maybe even to herself, by an unforgivably racist and homophobic industry. It’s safe to say that she died too young, and too sad. When Santana and Brittany take her song and flip the pronouns and wear the slinky tube dresses and wrap their curled hair in big bows and it rains glitter and are surrounded by cheerleaders, one of whom has a very alternative lifestyle haircut, and they want to dance with each other? And they GET to dance with each other? I hope she would’ve found it exhilarating. I did.


Episode 414: “I Do”

“Maybe that’s why we love each other so much. And slap each other.”

Written by Heather

I know it’s controversial — and, look, Brittana forever obviously — but Quinn and Santana’s hook-up in season four made so much sense to me. In real life, that absolutely would have happened. Quinn fresh from Jodie Foster’s clambake in college, Santana nursing her heartbreak over Brittany, two ends of the same bitch-goddess spectrum, one curious and one lonely. The whole thing is played perfectly. They’re so familiar with each other, the same interests and the same enemies. Of course they have fake IDs. Of course Santana clocks Quinn’s flirting the second she starts it. Of course they drink and dance and whisper secrets into each other’s ears and fall into bed with each other. This whole episode is legit queer culture. Including the fact that it’s a two-time thing.


Episode 502: “Tina in the Sky with Diamonds”

Here comes the sun.

Written by Drew

The writers largely failed Santana in the later seasons, but her brief romance with Demi Lovato’s Dani was the exception. After a few instances of Santana being cute and flustered in front of her new diner coworker, they end up with a night shift together. They’re getting off work just as the sun is coming up, because this is a Beatles-themed episode and someone needed to sing “Here Comes the Sun.” And also because it’s really adorable and romantic. I love Brittana, but one of the best parts of Glee is that unlike a lot of other shows its queer characters’ queerness was not reliant on one other person.

We saw that throughout Kurt and Santana’s extended coming outs and we could’ve seen it more if Santana was given space to date and be her own character in the backhalf of the show. But we did get this number and it’s just so beautiful. I don’t have anything smart to say. I just think it’s really sweet and romantic and Naya is so vulnerable and pretty and her voice is so lovely. I’ve found myself revisiting this clip more than any other this past week. It’s pure joy and when I think of Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez what I feel is joy.


“I like yeast in my bagel, but not in my muffin!”

Written by Heather

We talk about how Naya Rivera could deliver one of those relentless Glee monologues like no one else (true) and that the power and beauty of her voice is uncontested (also true) — but Naya made Santana the funniest character on that show, hands-down. Some of it was mean-funny and her delivery there was always effortless. “A baby? With whose vagina?” is a personal favorite. But nothing is as eternally hilarious to me — maybe on TV ever — as Santana’s Yeast-I-Stat commercial. It’s so fucking ridiculous. The easter colored suburban mom clothes, the giant swing, the stock footage feeling of it all. Just the bonkers way Santana runs leaps through that field like a gazelle, and then that Olympic twirly ribbon in the woods(????). Mostly, though, the dialogue. It’s layers upon layers of ridiculousness, but brilliantly so. Naya as Santana as a happy lady with a yeast infection, inside a commercial, inside a phone she’s holding to proudly share her triumph with Rachel. The way she shoves that bagel in her mouth! Also, honestly, Santana would still be getting royalties off that thing. I loved seeing Santana succeed. I loved seeing her happy. I’ll always remember Naya happy.


Episode 509: “Frenemies”

“Nobody — no, nobody — is gonna rain on my parade.”

Written by Carmen

It’s the tiny blue dress. We can all be honest here, if a picture is worth a thousand words then that dress is worth a million dollars. It’s the dress that sells the song before Santana even opens her mouth. And whew, does she sell this song. Within the Glee canon, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” is iconically Rachel Berry’s and I don’t think it takes anything away from Lea Michele or her star character to say the truth — she was designed, from the first line of the pilot episode, to be the sun around which Glee revolved and as Santana Lopez, Naya Rivera was expected to be a “featured extra” — some hot bitch to snide behind Quinn Fabray.

But Santana was too bright, too once-in-a-lifetime, and Naya Rivera worked too hard at her career for far too long, taking bit commercials and one-off guest stars since she was a child, for this not to be her moment. It’s not behind the scenes drama to simply state that there are less opportunities for Black Latina girls in Hollywood, those are the facts of structural racism. As Santana Lopez, Naya Rivera beat odds, and she changed any previously conceived scripts about who people would care about in a mainstream teen dramedy — they could care just as much about the Latina lesbian as they would about the white heterosexual leads.

Those are all the things I think about when I watch Santana strut down the theatre’s aisle singing (gasp!) Rachel’s song, There’s a moment, right at the end, right after “One gunshot and BAM! Hey Mister Arnstein, here I am!” — she raises both hands to the orchestra and she smiles into the audience. She nearly breaks her face in two because she knows, she really knows, that she did it. She’s the star.

The Autostraddle TV Team is made up of Riese Bernard, Carmen Phillips, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Valerie Anne, Natalie, Drew Gregory, and Heather Hogan. Follow them on Twitter!

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20 Comments

  1. It will always be amazing to me that a show that I only seriously (obsessively) watched for three season could leave such an indelible mark on my psyche.

    (and Brittana / Faberry fans can come at me, bro, but Quinntana is the ship that I will go down with)

  2. Out of all the actors on Glee, she was the only one who could eviscerate with words in one scene, and break our hearts in the next. While as amazing she was at delivering the zingers, she was equally as talented at delivering the tender soft spoken line that would often lead to tears. For me, she really was the true star of that show.

  3. So many amazing moments. One of my favourites is the group phone call in Season 1 where Santana says ‘Sex is not dating’ and Brittany says ‘If it was, Santana and I would be dating’ The fear in Naya’s eyes – it was those kind of small choices and background acting that led people to ship Brittana, and for Santana to become more than the bitchy cheerleader.

    Thank you for giving me this space to remember Naya and Santana.

  4. I have such vivid memories of “Landslide”. My chest was squeezed so tight I could barely breathe and I felt like I was watching it from outside my body. I was 19 and just starting to allow myself to realize I was queer. Thank you, Naya, for all of the knockout moments you gave us. That show was messy, but as a baby gay, Santana was everythingggg.

  5. Thank you all for your lovely words.

    One of my favourite Santana moments that isn’t mentioned here is the whole The Spanish Teacher episode. I am so different from Santana in a lot of ways but I’ve never felt so seen by a character than in that episode. Her ability to speak truth to power and call teachers (adults!) out was so validating. The way she spoke to her patronising teacher who was treating her like she was a dumb kid who didn’t know any better was beautiful. I was that kid at school for better or worse.

    When I was 13 I was due to go to school camp during the 2002 Men’s World Cup. I refused to go because I’ve always been a big soccer gay. The year level coordinator called me into his office and demanded I went. He was rude, patronising, and racist. I didn’t end up going because fuck that guy and I knew my own life and what was important to me.

    It’s really different, but seeing another Latina women stand up for herself and her culture was so validating to my lived experiences. I think about that scene all the time. “You don’t even know enough be embarrassed by these negative stereotypes you’re perpetuating” is a brilliant line and she delivers it perfectly. Like she was tired and so quietly righteous, which definitely wasn’t how Santana usually cut people down. I want to think it was because it truly meant something. She was right, and she mattered, even if she was just a teenager.

    Also – Naya Rivera and Ricky Martin’s version of La Isla Bonita is one of my favourite Glee songs of all time. They are devastatingly hot and seeing two Latinx people (one gay and one playing a gay character) reclaim a spanish song by one of music’s biggest cultural appropriators makes me so happy. Like damn, I am so gay but those two dancing does something to me.

  6. Very well written especially Valerie’s on the hurt locker scene that turned me into a fan of Naya, Santana, Britanna and Glee. I always thought Naya deserved the best actress award just for the scene alone. Felt Santana’s pain and love and vulnerability so much, it was just so raw, so real and so genuine. No actor gave me that kind of depth and emotion on screen before. Hands down my favourite and the best ever scene on Glee. Naya, I’m sorry the world took you for granted. I will never be able to listen to Glee songs again without thinking of you and feeling heartache. I adore you. I miss you.

  7. I felt all of this so deeply. the glee fandom was my solace during one of the lowest points in my life, and it’s so hard to articulate just how massive of an impact Naya as Santana had on me, on my friends, on lesbian representation on television as a whole, to people who didn’t experience it or who aren’t part of the lgbtq+ community. ryan murphy gets all the credit for the good parts of glee but this one was all Naya (with help from Heather Morris, of course). Santana Lopez was a one dimensional cheerleader minion until Naya Rivera turned her into one of the greatest and most important tv characters of all time. She is a hero, and deserves to be remembered as such.
    Thank you Naya. You won’t be forgotten.

  8. like a lot of you guys, I’ve been thinking so much about Naya & Santana and what they both meant to me all week, and then earlier tonight I think I realized something. Would be glad if someone could prove me wrong, but our – queer women’s – stories being told explicitly on TV and film is so young that Naya, as far as I can think, is the first actress who played gay in a big way to die. Can that possibly be true? Is that an aspect of why this moment feels so awful – because this is the first time we’re learning how to mourn this particular sort of loss?

  9. I’m still feeling sad and angry. I will never understand why these things happen. I just wanna go back in time man. This is so sad.

    I can’t believe it’s been ten years since this moments happened. I was such a great fan of Glee. Of Santana.

    It’s crazy because I live in the other half of the word, but it felt like losing a friend.

    My favorite moment was Landslide, btw.

    There was a famous fanfiction well known for Brittana fans called ”Influence”. I was one of my favs at the time. Its last chapter its called ”I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart).

    Well, I’d like to think that we now carry your heart in our hearts, Naya.

    Wherever your soul is, thank you. Thank you so much.

  10. Thanks for this, TV team – it feels much needed. Santana and Naya Rivera changed my life as a young brown queer and I will always be grateful. So many of these scenes still eviscerate me and remain among my favorite pieces of lesbian content. I can’t remember the last time I felt so surprised, validated, and delighted by a coming out (Waverly Earp got close!). I can’t get her “If I Die Young” out of my head lately. Naya, girl, I’m just so sorry. Thank you for your bravery, your fire, your swag, your humor, and your craft. I rarely get genuinely upset over celebrity deaths, but yours hit me hard queen. We miss you.

  11. I have been heartbroken over this. The death of celebrities usually does not impact me, but this one really has. I was accepting myself and coming out along with Santana’s storyline. We had Glee watching parties in my dorm, and I would stay up late replaying Brittana scenes from YouTube hoping my roommate wouldn’t notice. I am forever grateful that Naya pushed for the storyline to be more than it was intended to be. I hope Naya knew the impact she had, or she can at least see it now.

    ‘Landslide’ is still my favorite Glee performance. When listening to it and watching the scene I don’t even realize that Naya has such a small part because her presence is the strongest there. Thank you Naya. Love to you, your family, your friends, and your sweet boy.

  12. This was so beautiful that I’m at a loss for words. When I was 13 Glee was my entire world — the show and the cast and their adventures swept me up in a frenzy, the way obsessions do with 13 year olds. How incredibly lucky I was to grow up with this story. It changed my life as it unfolded. So endlessly grateful to Naya. A profound loss.

  13. I was the exact same age as Santana when Glee was airing and going through the most difficult part of my coming out process. The details of my journey were pretty different from Santana’s, but the feelings were the same. I felt like no one could possibly understand what I was going through when I was 16, and then, all of a sudden, there was Santana, reflecting my feelings back to me from my favorite TV show. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (with the lyric changes!!) was probably my favorite moment. At a time when I mostly only felt dread when I thought about going through life as a lesbian, that performance made me feel hopeful that I would someday be able to openly love someone who openly loved me back.

    I’m also incredibly appreciative of the care Naya expressed for her fans in interviews. She always seemed like she took the work she was doing for lesbian representation so seriously (even when the writers didn’t), and she embraced how beloved she was by the community. I had such a crush on her, and the way she spoke made me feel okay about having a fun, silly crush like the ones my friends had on male celebrities. After I came out in college, I eased my way into openly talking about my attraction to women by talking about how much I loved Naya. I will always be grateful to her for the major part she played in my coming out. I am so devastated by this loss.

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