Our favorite "Gleek" Naya Rivera turns 26 tomorrow and in honor of her birthday we're counting down 26 reasons we love the talented actress/singer! Happy birthday, Naya!
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She made a cameo in Smart Guy. Who can forget the super cheesy 90s sitcom? Rivera played Kelly, one of three dates T.J. Henderson (Tahj Mowry) accidentally books for a school dance.
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She’s badass on Glee. Rivera went from the sidelines to breakout star playing Santana, a newly out-of-the-closet lesbian who’s tough as nails on the outside but a softie on the inside, especially when she falls for her best friend. She continues to wow audiences with frequent cameos.
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She’s an LGBT activist. Rivera, who’s not gay herself, stays true to her character on Glee by inspiring her fans to come out in real life and serving as a spokeswoman for GLAAD. She’s also an avid supporter of The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.
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She’s sexy and she knows it. Voted Maxim’s Hot 100, Rivera isn’t shy about posting sexy pics of herself on Twitter. Who could hide that killer body? "Latina women are, in my opinion, the sexiest in the world," she told GLAAD.
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She’s got a serious Twitter army of fans, friends, and, of course, stalkers. Last count Rivera had 959,781 followers. We’re sure she’ll hit a million; like tomorrow.
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She’s Afro Latina. The Cali-raised starlet is half Puerto Rican and a ¼ African American and ¼ German. Did we mention hot?
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She’s working on an album. In 2011, she inked a deal with Columbia Records and is currently working on her debut, which according to Rivera, features “awesome club songs that are fun to dance to.”
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She’s a part-time video vixen. Rivera rocks a cleavage-bearing catsuit singing lead vocals in 2CELLOS' "Supermassive Black Hole" music video. In 2002, she appeared as a main squeeze in the music video for B2K's "Why I Love You.”
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Her mashup of Adele's "Rumour Has It" and “Someone Like You” on Glee was phenomenal. Santana and Mercedes (Amber Riley) were the perfect pair to perform this hit number, and while Adele’s been covered before on the show (Gwyneth Paltrow sang “Turning Tables”), this one went down in New Directions history.
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She serenaded her Glee sweetie with Taylor Swift’s "Mine." Her performance in the episode, known as “The Breakup,” had the blogosphere wondering if Rivera actually did it better than Swift.
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She rocked Glee’s Michael Jackson tribute episode. Santana had it out with Sebastian (Grant Gustin) through song. Her choice? MJ’s “Smooth Criminal.” Fun fact: Rivera has been to Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch twice. Jackson’s niece, who she met at an audition, invited her.
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Her duet with Ricky Martin to Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” was magical. When music superstar Ricky Martin guest starred as a sexy Spanish teacher on Glee, we knew it would be a sight to see. Martin and Rivera went down in TV history with their rendition of Madge’s 1987 hit single.
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She’s a jokester. While horsing around one day, Rivera made up a celebratory dance that is now known as "The Naya Dance,” which basically consists of pointing down and shuffling around in a circle. She and costar Cory Monteith (Finn) even held a contest with Gleeks asking for their best impression.
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She gets in the holiday spirit. Last Christmas, Rivera dressed up as a sexy Santa Claus and Tweeted it, only for us to grow more jealous about her abs. She also performed "Silent Night" when she returned to McKinley High, a cut that was featured on Glee: The Music –The Christmas Album Volume 3.
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She’s a philanthropist. Not only does Rivera work with LGBT organizations, but she also dedicates her time to Stand Up to Cancer, promotes Alzheimer’s awareness for The Elephant Project, and supports ill and abused children for The Sunshine Foundation.
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She’s evolved into quite the fashionista. Since starring in Glee in 2009, the self-professed tomboy has been seen rocking a blue ombre Harve Leger one-shoulder bandage dress and even bought a red Miu Miu swimsuit from the stylist at her Latina shoot.
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She worked her way up. In between auditions and small roles (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, The Bernie Mac Show), Rivera worked as a telemarketer, a nanny, and a greeter at Abercrombie & Fitch.
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She has great taste in music. Rivera’s very first concert was No Doubt and her dream role is to play singer/actress/activist Lena Horne. “Her talent was astounding and more than that, her life story is incredible,” Rivera said of Horne, whom she totally resembles.
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She was our May 2012 cover girl. From her hair, which always looks gorg, down to her red-painted toenails, Rivera rocked our cover shoot! The down-to-earth actress drove herself to the shoot sans entourage and channeled the ‘50s pinup girl paintings of Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas.
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She’s got a cool little tattoo of a shooting star on top of her left foot. Latina’s Grace Bastidas pointed it out in her interview with the actress when she graced our cover. Rumor has it, she actually has six: a small bow on the back of her neck, the word "Love" written in Hebrew on the inside of her right wrist, a large cross on her lower back, and a small peace sign on the inside of her left ankle.
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She’s got great genes. Rivera's brother, Mychal, plays tight end for the University of Tennessee and her sister, Nickayla, is a model.
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She makes being a cheerleader look fun. Always sporting a red Cheerio uniform, Rivera’s character Santana makes us want to go back in time and try out. Minus Sue Sylvester as our coach, of course.
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She acted alongside Gloria Estefan in the season 3 finale of Glee. Rivera played Mrs. Lopez’s (Estefan) daughter and told The Hollywood Reporter: "She's very much the supportive mother -- and fun! She was amazing to work with, very sweet and we had the best time."
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Her biggest regret in life is missing out in “Gangnam Style” at sectionals on Glee. Or so her Twitter says.
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She loves black nail polish. She’s posted a lot of pics of her decked out in dark polish and we can’t help but love a girl who dabbles in goth.
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She’s got a geeky side. Rivera attended Comic-Con last year, so we’re guessing the sexy starlet has a quirky side.