Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Underappreciated Naya Rivera Moments On Glee

After it premiered in 2009 to plenty of fanfare, Ryan Murphy's high school a capella serie, Glee, became a bonafide sensation. Ultimately, Glee spawned a Radio City Music Hall show, a reality television series on which young actors and actresses competed to be on the show (The Glee Project), plenty of soundtracks of the actors singing everything from classic showtunes to pop hits, and even a 3D concert movie. Despite the fact that the show was, at its heart, about a group of dorky, singing underdogs at an Ohio high school, Glee became bigger than itself, and propelled its young stars to international fame and acclaim.

One of its young fledgling performers, Naya Rivera, shot to stardom as Santana Lopez, who started as a snotty, popular cheerleader on the show's first season but eventually became an integral part of the on-screen Glee Club. In a devastating twist, years after her time on Glee, Rivera was declared missing after a trip with her young son to California's Lake Piru in July 2020, and authorities believe that the actress may have drowned at the age of 33.

To celebrate Rivera's talent and career, we've rounded up some of her most essential and underappreciated moments throughout Glee, from her very first solo number to some of her most triumphant turns. Here are just a few of the most underrated Naya Rivera moments on Glee.

Naya Rivera's first Glee Club solo showed off her talent

After sticking to small moments and background work throughout most of the first season, Rivera became a regular during the second season, thanks largely to the fact that Santana joins the titular Glee Club to serve as a spy for her cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester (Emmy winner Jane Lynch). No matter why she's there, Santana is undeniably talented, which she shows off in her inaugural solo number.

With a cover of Amy Winehouse's "Valerie," Rivera got the chance to show off her pipes, and Santana proved why she belonged in the club. Even if she joined just to play double agent, "Valerie" gave Santana a rock-solid reason to stay, and eventually, she comes to love her fellow Glee club members, becoming a bonafide member of the club and remaining a member because she wants to be there rather than staying on Sue's orders. Santana's journey takes a while, but "Valerie" is what kicks things off.

Santana's sweet relationship with Brittany

Santana's incredibly heartwarming romantic bond with fellow cheerleader Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris) is made up of too many moments to count, but it provides some of the strongest emotional beats throughout the entire show. When Santana is first introduced, she's presented as a sexually aggressive and often cruel character, but as the show continues, it's revealed that her bad attitude is due mainly to the fact that she feels trapped in the closet and is grappling with her intense feelings for Brittany.

From the moment when Santana publicly admits her love for Brittany to their explosive duet to "Me Against the Music" to their double wedding with Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss), Santana and Brittany are clearly the endgame for the entire series. No matter how many times they split up and get back together, this duo is definitely meant to be, and all in all, it adds some much-needed humanity to Rivera's character.

Naya Rivera's Adele mashup puts a halt to cruel gossip

If Santana's love for Brittany makes her a more sympathetic character, her coming-out process is a huge part of that as well. During a third-season argument with quarterback and fellow Glee Club member Finn (the late Cory Monteith) in the school hallways, Santana reveals her real feelings for Brittany. Unfortunately, once Sue gets wind of Santana's admission that she's a lesbian, she uses it to her advantage.

When Sue tells the entire community that Santana is gay before she can speak to her own family, the popular cheerleader is crushed, and ultimately, her grandmother stops speaking to her entirely. As a pushback against the rumors and gossip, Santana takes to the stage to perform an explosive, excellent mashup of two Adele hits — "Rumor Has It" and "Someone Like You" — to help deal with her newfound identity, proving that a simple vocal performance can really pack an emotional punch.

The moment when Santana finally upstages Rachel Berry

Throughout all of Glee, Santana has one clear rival: Rachel Berry, the de-facto star of the Glee Club, played by Broadway sensation Lea Michele. Despite the fact that Rachel emerges as the club's leading lady right off the bat, Santana never misses an opportunity to insult or challenge her, and in one of the show's most triumphant moments, she steals Rachel's signature song, "Don't Rain on My Parade" — made famous by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl — for a huge Broadway audition in front of Rachel herself. This comes years after her Glee Club explosion about Rachel, in which she calls Rachel "horrible" and tells the room that she'll do absolutely anything for a solo.

It's extremely possible that the constant strife between Santana and Rachel was inspired by the rumored real-life feud between Rivera and Michele, which floated around throughout Glee's run and was seemingly confirmed in Rivera's 2016 memoir, Sorry Not Sorry (Michele would land herself in hot water with other co-stars much later on). Rivera and Michele likely did have real-life problems, but on the screen, it made for some pretty compelling moments.