What Did Naya Rivera’s ‘Glee’ Co-Star Amber Riley Perform as a Tribute on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’?
On Thursday, August 27, 2020, Amber Riley (under her stage name, Riley) performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live. She sang in honor of her former Glee co-star, Naya Rivera, who passed away in July. Here’s a look at their friendship and what Riley dedicated to her late friend.
Amber Riley and Naya Rivera starred in ‘Glee’
Riley and Rivera were two of the original stars of Glee. They portrayed Mercedes Jones and Santana Lopez, respectively. Both remained on the series in some capacity throughout its six-season run, each credited in nearly every episode of the 121 that make up the show’s six-season run.
After the series came to an end, Riley competed on Dancing with the Stars, winning Season 17. In the years since, she’s continued to act, performing in live TV productions of The Wiz and The Little Mermaid. Rivera, meanwhile, wrote a tell-all book, Sorry Not Sorry. She also starred in the drama series Step Up.
They remained friends after the series ended
Riley and Rivera were friends on screen and off. Though their careers didn’t cross paths again, they stayed in touch after Glee ended in 2013, frequently interacting on social media. So when Rivera was reported missing in July 2020, Riley was among those who kept fans updated on the search.
“Show some respect,” Riley wrote on Twitter. “All our energy is going toward helping find Naya and praying for her safe return and for her family. No one owes anyone online a performance of grief. This is very real and devastating. Focus on Naya and her family. Not us. We don’t matter right now.”
Riley posted a meaningful tribute to Rivera
After a few days, Rivera’s body was found. Riley then shared photos and videos on social media. She followed this up with a lengthy Instagram tribute and slideshow. “Miss you baby girl and I love you,” she wrote. “I’m so mad the world will never see how high you could have soared.”
“There was never competition, or shade, or intimidation with us,” Riley continued. “Just pure adoration and mutual respect.” She added, “I’ve cried until my tear ducts have dried out, now it’s time to celebrate the fact that us mere humans got to experience walking through life with an earth angel. “
Ahead of Jimmy Kimmel Live airing, Riley announced her upcoming tribute. Fellow Glee cast members like Chord Overstreet (Sam Evans) and Kevin McHale (Artie Abrams) reached out on social media to tell her they would be watching, as did many fans.
Riley performed an original song in her touching tribute on the show, after she was introduced by guest host Lil Rey Howery. While she sang, photos of Rivera throughout her life appeared on a screen behind her. “I’ve faced every kind of pain,” Riley sang, finishing her performance by looking back at her recently deceased friend.