Rapper Big Sean has expressed disbelief in the death of his ex-fiancee and former Glee star Naya Rivera, whose body was pulled from a Southern California lake on Monday.
The rapper and Rivera, 33, got engaged roughly six months into their relationship, which lasted from 2013 to 2014.
On Friday night, Sean paid tribute to Rivera, writing on Instagram: “Rest In Peace Naya, God Bless your Soul!”
“Thank you for blessing us all with your talent and presence. You are a hero! Not just because of how you saved your son, also because of the barriers you knocked down for so many people to make them feel confident in themselves and to stand tall and be proud when they couldn’t achieve that on their own.”
He added: “I’m still grieving and in shock, I can’t believe this is real. I’m praying for you and your family and I know your (sic) watching over them and protecting them. Rest In Peace Naya.”
Rivera’s body was recovered from Lake Piru, northwest of Los Angeles, after she was reported missing five days earlier when she failed to return from a boating trip with her four-year-old son.
A medical examiner said Rivera accidentally drowned and there was no indication alcohol or drugs contributed.
Sheriff Bill Ayub said the actress’ son Josey told detectives the pair went swimming and she boosted him onto the deck before he looked back to see her disappear under the water.
He was discovered alone in the boat, asleep, wrapped in a towel and wearing a life jacket by the owner of the boat rental company.
Sheriff Ayub said their theory is that the boat drifted as they swam and she “mustered enough energy to get her son on board, but not enough to save herself”.
Rivera’s co-star Heather Morris honoured her with a moving message and series of photos posted to Instagram.
She wrote that Rivera “constantly taught” her “lessons about grief, about beauty and poise, about being strong, resilient”.
She added: “You are and always will be the strongest and most resilient human being I know, and I vowed to carry that with me as I continue to live my life.”
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We started out as the closest friends and then like all new things, we went through a bit of a rocky phase. However, we stuck by each other’s side and created the most beautiful friendship built out of love and understanding. The last I had the chance to see you in person, I had left oranges outside our home for you to take. I wanted to say hi through the window but my phone didn’t ring when you called (which it never does, f*cking T-Mobile), so instead you and Josey left two succulents on our doorstep as a thank you. I planted those succulents and I look at them everyday and think of you. I still listen to your EP on repeat because from the moment I heard it, it struck me and I always wished the world knew more of your voice. You sent me over 5 dozen SnapChat videos when you and Josey woke up in the morning and I kick myself that I didn’t save one of them. You always shared recipes and I admired your love for food. We vowed to spend every Easter together, even though Covid stole this last one from us. You are and always will be the strongest and most resilient human being I know, and I vowed to carry that with me as I continue to live my life. You constantly taught me lessons about grief, about beauty and poise, about being strong, resilient and about not giving a fuck (but still somehow respectful ). Yet, the utmost important lesson I learned most of all from you was being a consistent and loving friend. You were the first to check in, the first to ask questions, the first to listen..you cherished our friendship and I never took that for granted. We never took photos together because we mutually hated taking pictures…our relationship meant more than proof. I have countless pictures of our babies playing, because we shared that kind of pride and joy. So I’m showing the world a photo of our little goof balls for you, because I know that meant more than anything and they remind me of you and I. I speak to you everyday because I know you’re still with me and even though I’m feeling greedy that we don’t get more time together, I cherish every moment we had and hold it close to my heart.
Glee creators Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk shared a tribute to the actress by announcing plans to establish a college fund for Josey.