Brittany S Pierce in the process of writing the legendary “My Cup”
It’s fitting that Naya Rivera’s photo shoot for the cover of Glow is taking place high in the Malibu mountains, because she’s feeling on top of the world. The 26-year-old, California-born actress and singer, who plays über-sexy, super-bitchy Santana Lopez on Glee, has a fifth season of the hit musical-comedy series to look forward to this fall and was singled out in March by New York magazine as the best thing about the show this season. (Several of the magazine’s online commenters readily agreed.)
Rivera arrives on set wearing a pair of high-waisted white flared trousers— a gift from her newly pregnant friend and Glee cast-mate, Heather Morris. They accentuate her impossibly small waist, which she keeps that way with twice-weekly trips to a trendy spin class and a diet high on juicing and low on both gluten and dairy. She’s also a self-proclaimed spa addict: “I love getting waxed, or getting tanned, getting my hair done or laser hair removal— I’m obsessed with anything like that,” she chimes with great enthusiasm.
Though she leads a healthy lifestyle now, that wasn’t always the case. “When I was a teenager, I really struggled with body image issues,” she says. “I’m a perfectionist…I was always really hard on myself.” Another stark contrast between her past and present lives is that, unlike now— and unlike her onscreen character— Rivera claims she used to be unpopular. Fellow students “wouldn’t let me sit in the quad,” she says with a laugh that suggests she’s long since recovered from the experience.
Rivera is the oldest of three kids and is close to her siblings (she regularly tweets pictures of them to her million-plus followers). It seems talent and drive run in the family: Her brother, Mychal, was recently drafted into the NFL and her sister, Nickayla, is a successful model. Rivera grew up in front of the cameras, scoring her first gig— a Kmart commercial, while still in diapers, and her first TV speaking role at four years old, in the Eddie Murphy-produced comedy The Royal Family.
Then, in 2009, after a slew of small roles - most notably a recurring part on The Bernie Mac Show - Glee came a knockin’. The life-changing opportunity arrived during a decidedly down moment in the actress’s life - her “darkest days,” she laughs, when she had resorted to waiting tables at Hooters for a three-month stint. “I never gave up,” sha says. “I hadn’t worked in so long, and I had this built-up anger and passion and fire about not working. I was like, ‘Anytime I get to say anything [in an audition], I’m just going to kill it”
Evidently, she did just that, and Glee executive producer and co-creator Ryan Murphy - whom Rivera affectionately calls “Lady Murphs… the best girlfriend I’ve ever had” - plucked her out of obscurity and made her a star.
Like a true diva-in-training, Rivera takes a few bites of a vegan dinner while simultaneously enjoying a pedicure and reflects on her newfound fame as the sun sets behind the mountains. “It’s definitely surreal, completely unexpected,” she says. “I didn’t know how long Santana was going to be around - I didn’t have any lines in the beginning. Literally every week that I would get called back, I was like, ‘Yes! I’m back for another week!’ So, for her to now have such a strong fan base of people that the storyline means so much to, is pretty incredible.”
Part of Santana’s - and, by extension, Rivera’s - popularity arrived by way of loyal Glee viewers who relate to the character’s struggle to come to terms with being a lesbian. At the time of our interview, the gay-marriage debate is still raging in the United States Supreme Court. Rivera is very clear about which side of the issue she stands on. “I think that everyone should have the right to be with whoever they love. I mean, love is so rare and - God, first of all, marriage is so hard. So if you want to get married…” she says out of the side of her mouth. And then, with a wry smile, she continues: “I think that people should be able to be with whoever they love…. Life is too short. I just don’t think it’s anyone else’s business.”
When conversation turns to matters of her own heart, Rivera is all girl talk and giggles. “No matter what [anyone] says to you, every girl wants to get married. Of course I want to get married! I think that it’d be the party of the century,” she says, laughing.
What would her ideal man look like? “He’s really good looking. He’s talented. He’s nice… I don’t know. I like people that are kind. And people who like me.” She laughs again, then adds, as though addressing the object of her affection, “Do you like me, sir?” in a saccharine-sweet voice that makes you wonder if this Maxim magazine-approved babe - who last year won the self-explanatory “Cause You’re Hot” title at the NewNextNow Awards - knows just how gorgeous she really is. Two days after our interview, she debuted her boyfriend, rapper and Kanye West protege Big Sean, to the world by traipsing arm in arm with him down the red carpet at a film premiere. Judging by all the PDA, it’s clear he likes her very much.
Glee has attracted an impressive cadre of A-list guest stars, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker. Which big Hollywood names would she like to share screen time with next? She says it would be “amazing” to work opposite Denzel Washington or Johnny Depp. And though she has said repeatedly that as long as there is a Glee, there will be a Santana, the rising star does have big dreams for her future.
“I would love to win a Grammy, win an Oscar. Um, I would love to [run] my own charity one day,” she says, thoughtfully. Then, without a hint of humble-brag, she concludes: “I just think that as long as I can continue to do what I love for the rest of my life, that would make me the luckiest person.”
brittana is a real thing
it is a real thing that happened
it is a real thing that is continuing to happen
it is a real thing that will keep happening until the end of forever
There’s a difference between cliffhangers and just not resolving your storylines because you got a two season pickup and you’re lazy and Glee does not understand that difference.
Those are the two girls I’m going to hold in my memory. When the music ends and the lights shut off and the rest of the world fades away, Santana will always find Brittany, and Brittany will always let her, and they’ll walk away together without words, because when it comes down to it, they never needed them in the first place, and neither did we.
BUT DO YOU GUYS FUCKING UNDERSTAND THAT THEY WALKED INTO THAT CHOIR ROOM TOGETHER AND WALKED ONTO THAT STAGE TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST TIME AND THEY ARE WALKING OFF TOGETHER!? EVEN THOUGH SANTANA DOESN’T LIVE THERE ANYMORE AND THEY AREN’T TOGETHER SHE WASN’T GOING TO LET HER GIRL CLOSE THAT CHAPTER OF HER LIFE WITHOUT HERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.
Having Santana tell Brittany that she doesn’t need to say anything for what’s possibly the last Brittana scene ever couldn’t be more appropriate as she was mute for their entire relationship.
Trying to hide Heather’s pregnancy