January 12th, 2012

On the Occasion of Naya’s Birthday

So here’s the part where I talk a lot about how much I appreciate and admire Naya Rivera so much and look up to her more than I can properly articulate, because, frankly, she’s amazing and it’s her birthday, and I have a lot of Naya feelings, as always, but especially today.

Naya Rivera is honestly my hero and I feel like I have so much to learn from her.

On the occasion of Naya’s birthday, I can’t help but think how indescribably lucky we are as a fandom to have her as our Captain, and I also can’t help but reflect on some of the reasons why Naya is honestly my real life, personal hero.

I admire Naya because Naya values people—she makes that clear in the way she supports and sticks up for her friends, in the way she participates in and lends her celebrity to various good and worthy causes, and especially in the gracious and empathetic way she interacts with her fans.

She shows such immense respect for Santana’s storyline and Brittana’s relationship on Glee and honors the responsibility she has as a performer to represent a community of people who so often have their voices silenced and who so rarely see their own struggles depicted by the mainstream media.

Naya is so deeply empathetic towards her fans.

But even more than that? She doesn’t just stand up for the community she represents through Santana, but she makes herself part of it, and that’s perhaps the biggest reason why she is my role model and hero.

Naya is the change she wishes to see in the world.

As my friend Marjorie once explained (see here):

[Naya] knows… that repeatedly insisting ‘I’m straight,’ or ‘as a straight woman, I feel so blessed to play a gay character,’ or ‘I’m straight, but an ally of the LGBT community,’ could play into the hands of homophobes. She’d much rather be associated with us, to be part of our community.

And… she seems to love it. She jokes about it at any opportunity, offering sweet lady kisses at the GLAAD Awards, referring to herself—or is it Santana?—as ‘Lebanese’ or ‘lesbian,’ donning a ‘Lebanese for Irish Girls’ shirt at a concert, accepting marriage proposals from adoring fans, etc. Of course part of this is gratitude for her largest fanbase, or perhaps even a shrewd career decision (she knows where she has the most visibility), but it’d be hard to fake how naturally it seems to come to her. I can’t cite anything when it’s just so obvious how much she lovesit, in every interview, in every appearance, with every fan who tells her how much Santana means to her.”

I want to be the kind of ally that Naya is. It’s not enough to be an ally from the sidelines. If you want to stand up for human decency, you have to make yourself part of that human collective and not worry about the labels, because, honestly and ultimately, they don’t matter.

Naya taught me that. 

The thing is that Naya doesn’t just give lip service when it comes to supporting her fans; she honestly works to secure equality on their behalves, which is why when she says things like, “It’s harder for girls because no one really takes them seriously. If they see two girls making out they say ‘that’s hot’ but, no, for teenage girls in high school this is a serious thing” (see here), she then follows up on those words by insisting that her own bosses treat Brittana’s relationship as real and show it due respect instead of just using it as a cheap joke, in her own words, “encouraging [RIB] to make [Brittana’s relationship] more serious and not play around with it, because there are people out there that it’s not a joke to; it’s their real lives” (see here).

Her commitment to human decency is just a rare and beautiful thing, and especially in Hollywood.

That’s why I will always be immensely—and perhaps irrationally—proud to call her my Captain and why I look up to her in the way that I do.

Of course, aside from being such a strong support to her fans, Naya is also awesome for more reasons than I can even name. She is hilarious, talented, positive, respectful, gorgeous, quirky, and clever. I could basically watch Naya do anything and feel entertained by it. Her commitment to being herself and pusuing her dreams inspires me. She truly loves her job—you can tell—and she’s such a natural performer and she deserves every acknowledgment and accolade she’s received in the past three years and more.

Plus, I will forever feel indebted to her and Heather for giving us Brittana.

When the writers introduced Brittana as a joke, Naya said, “I think that Brittany is her soulmate. I think that they should end up together… They’re in love” (see here). She said, “Maybe [Brittany and Santana] will fall in love. I do think that they’re soulmates. Brittany just gets Santana, even though a lot of people don’t like her… so maybe Santana should just be with Brittany” (see here).

And then she worked her ass off with Heather in order to make Brittana happen on screen.

Every little look and touch, every little nuance to Santana’s behavior, everything that points to Santana’s sexuality and her love for Brittany, comes back to Naya, in large part (see here).

Naya has been beyond flawless in her depiction of Santana and in the sheer passion she brings to the Brittana relationship. Her acting is impeccable, her singing amazing, and her dedication to being the best Santana she can be is nothing short of incredible.

There are not enough superlatives to describe Naya Marie Rivera.

Just looking at all she’s accomplished in her first twenty-five years of life is a testament to her greatness. This last year alone, she got promoted to a series regular on one of the biggest shows on television, won an ALMA Award, hosted the GLAAD Awards, received rave reviews for her performances, headlined a major concert tour, had a number one song on the Billboard Charts, and changed the lives of millions of people the world over.

Her accomplishments are about half as incredible as she is.

Naya is my hero.

Happy birthday, Captain! I wish you well in the coming year. You deserve everything good that comes to you and more. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you just for being you. 

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