Exclusive Feature: Naya Rivera

NOT THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. Brutally honest, beautiful and bold, Naya Rivera is a triple-threat and a force to be reckoned with. To DA MAN she opens up about her experience as a child actress and meeting her fiancé through Twitter.

Feature NAYA

Dress by Marie France Van Damme, jewelry by Cartier

Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez in “Glee” is the typical girl we’re often feeling intimidated to talk to. With the character’s larger-than life persona that arrests every infatuated boy’s attention, the real Naya Rivera is refreshingly sweet and grounded. Born and raised in California, the raven-haired actress grew up in front of the cameras and, by the age of ten, had bagged roles in ‘90s cult television series such as “Family Matters,” “Baywatch” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Hard work was something that came curiously naturally to the young actress. The deeply-embedded work ethic endured well into her adult years and eventually led her to scoring a much sought-after role in TV megahit series, “Glee.”

The show catapulted Rivera into fame in what seemed like a blink of an eye, and instead of falling into a Lindsay Lohan-like pitfall of self-destructive wreckage, the shy actress held fast with a sharp determination and undeterred focus. A sign of finally completing the transition from a green child actress to a poised and self-assured thespian, Rivera is fearless and open. Here she discusses her latest venture in music, her love life and her various charities.


Dress by Christian Dior

“I believe in my abilities and my talent, and everything is really about the right timing. You just have to persevere.”


DA MAN: Hi Naya, How are you? We’re all big fans of “Glee.” What was it like auditioning for “Glee” for the first time?
Naya Rivera:
I had to sing and I had to get sheet music for the pianist, who now works in “Glee.” I actually read Mercedes’ lines because Santana doesn’t have any lines in the pilot. That was pretty much how it worked. I auditioned, they liked me, and I was fortunate enough to get the part.

DA: Is working on “Glee” really as glamorous and fun as it seems from the outside?
NR: We all work really hard. When we are in production, we work long hours, but we have weekends off, and I try to make the most of them. With the New York shift in the show, the schedule has gotten a lot better, but in the beginning, for the first three years or so, it was pretty much a Monday through Friday, back to back kind of schedule. For example today, I got to set at 7:30 a.m. and I probably won’t leave until 11:00 p.m.

DA: What is it like working in the show?
NR: Stressful [laughs], but it’s something we’ve been doing for a really long time now, so we’ve all got the hang of it. We actually just finished filming the 100th episode, so we had a 100th episode celebration. All of the cast, the producers, the writers, everyone was here and they put together a really sweet collage of every episode that we’d ever recorded. It’s not just stressful. We goof around and have a lot of fun, too. We’re like a big family here on set. We’re all friends, and we hang out outside of work. It’s a really good group of people to be working with.


Dress by Gucci

DA: What were you like in high school? Were you at all like Santana?
NR: Absolutely not. I went to Valencia High School and I was actually kind of a loner. I didn’t have too many friends. I kind of felt like I didn’t belong because I was working and I had my eyes set on other aspirations, like being in the entertainment industry. I wanted to do cheerleading back when I was a freshman, but I just didn’t have the time. With the back-and-forth of auditions and work, I couldn’t commit to the afterschool practices.

DA: Do you find difficulties in portraying a character that’s so different from yourself?
NR: Trying to be consistent as an actor is really the hardest thing. It’s been amazing to play the same character for five to six years now, because it really lets me flex my acting muscle. But playing a character for that long, you have to push yourself to keep things new and fresh and interesting. In one episode, Santana sings “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” which was something new because Santana doesn’t really sing many show tunes. That’s the hardest part, keeping things interesting.

DA: What were your most memorable moments in the show?
NR: Oh gosh, that’s a really hard question to answer. I get asked this question all the time, and I never have a good answer. Every experience has been good, so it’s hard to pick just one.

DA: Speaking of personal life, we’ve heard a rumor that you met your fiancé, rapper Big Sean through Twitter. Is there any truth to it?
NR: Yes, it’s true [laughs]. I actually started following him on Twitter and I mentioned that I was a big fan. Then some fans started to alert him that I was following him. His assistant happens to be a big fan of “Glee,” knows my character on the show and knows who I am. So Big Sean became curious and started to ask who I was. A date was set, and it all just happened from there. The way our relationship blossomed is like any other relationship. We went on a date and we enjoyed each other’s company; we went on another and another, and it developed like any normal relationship.


Dress by Lanvin, jewelry by Cartier


DA: You started out as a child actress. How did you make the smooth transition from child actress to a successful adult actress?
NR: I guess I’m pretty lucky that I gained fame later in life. You know I’m 27 now, so I have my head on my shoulders. If I’d achieved success earlier, maybe things would have been harder, but I’m a grown-up. I have responsibilities and maturity that comes with that.

DA: You’re quite active with charity work. What is the reason for you to do it?
NR: It’s really important to give back whether you’re in the entertainment industry or not. It’s something that everyone should do and should want to do. I have my own reasons for getting involved with the various charities that I’m a part of, and I want to start something else on my own, a cause with my own vision of what I’d like to make a difference in and with my own direction. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to give back.