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Naya Rivera’s Ex And Big Sky Actor Ryan Dorsey Paid Tribute To The Glee Star On What Would Have Been Her 35th Birthday

Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez in Glee.
(Image credit: Fox)

Big Sky actor Ryan Dorsey paid tribute to his ex Naya Rivera on what would have her 35th birthday. The Glee alum passed away in 2020 after drowning in a lake while boating with her son, whom she shares with Dorsey.

In a statement to PEOPLE, Ryan Dorsey paid tribute to Naya Rivera on January 12, the late actress’ 35th birthday. He reflected on the past and how things have been since losing her, mentioning how their son Josey would make her very proud. It’s as emotional as one would think:

She knew how willing Josey was to share his things but she'd be so proud to see how he'll give things he loves away to friends or donate them. He has this unique literal laugh-out-LOUD cackle of laugh when he's watching TV that's kind of obnoxiously endearing like hers was, but his even more so. No matter your mood, it would make anyone smile if you heard it. At least once a day I find myself shaking my head, like it's still unbelievable, so surreal that she's gone. She'd be freaking out today, I could almost hear her: 'OMG, I'm almost 40!' It's hard to write this, tears coming out my eyes. Unf---ing real.

While Rivera and Dorsey split in 2018 after being married for four years, the two remained friends to co-parent Josey. Dorsey honored Rivera on her birthday last year as well, and friends and fans alike had tributes of their own for the late actress to celebrate her birthday and honor her. 

Glee star Kevin McHale took to Twitter to send Rivera a birthday wish, while Rivera's on-screen love interest Heather Morris simply retweeted a tribute. Naya Rivera's version of “River Deep, Mountain High” with Amber Riley that they did for Glee has become a new TikTok trend, proving that she's still remembered for her singing as well as her performances in television and film beyond Glee.  

Rivera is best known for portraying Santana Lopez on Fox’s musical dramedy Glee for the show’s six seasons. Her character became big in the LGBTQ+ community after coming out and the storyline remains a favorite today. She was also in the midst of production on TV series Step Up at the time of her death and her character, Collette Jones, has since been recast.

Naya Rivera’s final movie performance came in the form of a voice role. She showed off her vocal skills further with DC’s Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One as well as Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two, voicing Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, last year. Cast also included Josh Duhamel, Billy Burke, Titus Welliver, David Dastmalchian, Troy Baker, Jack Quaid, Jensen Ackles and plenty more. Both parts are streaming on HBO Max.

Losing a loved one is never easy but it looks like Ryan Dorsey is keeping Naya Rivera’s memory alive in the form of their son and it’s beautiful.

Megan Behnke

Passionate writer. Obsessed with anything and everything entertainment, specifically movies and television. Can get easily attached to fictional characters.