Santana became a fan favorite after diehard Glee fans picked up on the chemistry between Rivera's character and ditzy fellow cheerleader Brittany, played by dancer Heather Morris. The couple, dubbed "Brittana," would become icons for lesbian representation on television as Rivera, along with the rest of the central Glee castmembers, rocketed to stardom as part of a worldwide phenomenon.
As Glee-mania broke out across the globe with live concert tours, a slew of TV awards and best-selling soundtracks, castmembers including Rivera also saw their solo musical careers blossom. In 2011, she signed as a solo artist with Columbia Records — the label behind the show's soundtracks — and released her first single.
Rivera's debut "Sorry" was released in September 2013 and featured rapper Big Sean. The two began dating and got engaged that year but ended their relationship months later. Despite her deal with Columbia, Rivera never released a solo album.
After Glee, Rivera had a recurring role on the Lifetime drama series Devious Maids. She most recently starred opposite Ne-Yo on the TV update of Step Up, which recently moved from its former home at YouTube to premium cable network Starz for its second season. On Step Up, Rivera played Collette Jones, an administrator at the show's prestigious High Water Performing Arts School.
Born in Santa Clarita, California, Rivera lived in the Los Angeles area for most of her life. Her father, George, is a retired actor, and her mother, Yolanda, a former model. Her younger brother, Mychal, has played for the NFL's Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars, and her younger sister, Nickayla, is a runway model.
Though much of Rivera's success was in television, she did have a sporadic film career. In 2014, she starred in At the Devil's Door, her first leading role in a feature. The horror film, directed by Nicholas McCarthy, premiered at South by Southwest and featured the actress as Vera, a woman investigating the death of her sister. She also starred in the 2017 comedy Mad Families.
In 2016, Rivera released a tell-all memoir titled Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes and Growing Up, in which she recounted her career, particularly her time on Glee.
Rivera had her son with former husband Ryan Dorsey, an actor.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.