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Following Naya Rivera's death, Heather Morris is letting her fans know that they are not alone in their grief.
On Sunday, the 33-year-old actress tearfully reflected on her Glee character Brittany Pierce’s relationship with Rivera's Santana Lopez, which is often considered a groundbreaking example for LGBTQ representation in television.
Santana started as a feisty William McKinley High School mean girl, but she evolved over the six seasons as she came to terms with her sexuality. Santana came out in the 2011 episode "I Kissed a Girl" after developing feelings for best friend Brittany.
"I have done a couple of these already, because it’s really tricky to film yourself and be really honest and talk personally. I have been feeling very heavy lately. I’ve been feeling this like aching in my heart to connect with my fans, to connect with everybody who’s been feeling a little lost and confused during this time," Morris began in her video.
In July, Rivera, 33, disappeared during a trip to Lake Piru in Ventura County, California, where she rented a pontoon boat and went swimming with her 4-year-old son, Josey Dorsey. Five days after Rivera was reported missing, authorities recovered her body from the water on July 13.
"I don’t need to explain what the importance of Santana and Brittany’s relationship was to all of you who are watching, because most of you felt like it was your gateway into your current life. Most of you felt like it was an inspiration to become your best self," Morris said in her video.
"I want you to know that that was never lost on me. It was never lost on Naya. We both knew how special that was. I think she knew a little bit more than I did. I really felt it a lot later with all the messages and all the people reaching out. and I knew the writers also knew that as well. They were basically writing for the fans," Morris continued.
Morris also said she knows many fans continue to grieve Rivera's death and take comfort by watching Glee.
"I felt a really deep need to connect to all of you right now because I just know how important our relationship was to you all. And I know a lot of you feel very lost and very far away from what happened, a maybe a bit confused. And that’s completely normal," she said with tears in her eyes. "But I felt like it owed it to you guys because I think the fans were such a huge impact on our storyline and I want to thank you all for being such advocates and so supportive of Santana and Brittany’s relationship, because without you guys it never would have existed."
"You guys helped create something for the writers and, for Naya and I, that made an impact that will last for a lifetime and beyond then. So I want to thank everyone here watching and I want to thank all the fans for your love and support," Morris added. "I want you to know that we are all here with you, that grief looks different on everybody and I want you to be gentle and kind to yourself during this time. I think many of you may feel very far away and I hope this message will help you feel closer."
The mother of two also shared how she personally has been grieving the death of her friend. "Something that’s helped me is to write a letter to talk to her and so I hope that helps," she said, before signing off.
In 2017, Rivera wrote a love letter to the LGBT community for Billboard, saying, "I have been so incredibly fortunate to portray a character on television that has meant so much to so many within the LGBTQ community. Off screen, I am a woman who stands in support of equal rights for all. It has been one of the great blessings in my life to receive such love and touching stories as a result of my portrayal of Santana Lopez in Glee."
Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez
Morris previously shared footage of herself performing a dance to Rivera's song "Radio Silence," telling her fans and followers that "grieving looks very differently on everyone."
"I’ve felt it’s hard to feel joy or keep busy when mourning without thinking that you’re not honoring that person or you’re forgetting about them," she explained, before adding that her husband, Taylor Hubbell, reminded her that "honoring someone can mean you’re enjoying your life FOR them."
"I made it to 1M followers in these last few weeks and at first I was resentful because I gained them from a tragedy, but after giving it a breath.. I realized you all have just surrounded me with love and support," Morris wrote. "That I just see you angels wrapping your wings around me 🙏🏻. So I’m celebrating 1Million today in a tribute to @nayarivera with her music and her voice that will forever be my favorite."