(NEW YORK) — Last month, Glee star Naya Rivera tragically drowned in California’s Lake Piru; her four-year-old son was found safe in a boat.  Gloria Estefan played the mother of Rivera’s Glee character, Santana, in two episodes of the hit Fox series and tells ABC Audio that while Rivera’s loss is “brutal,” she’s left behind “a wonderful legacy.”

“When I shot the first season, that show was at the peak of fame. So there was a lot of young people in that show that may have had a tougher time dealing with fame and weren’t that friendly,” Gloria recalls. “Naya always had her feet on the ground and was warm and welcoming and lovely.”

Praising Rivera as a “triple threat” who could sing, dance and act, Gloria says that Naya was discussing a possible music career with her husband, producer Emilio Estefan.

“She was talking to Emilio…about doing music and then she got married and had her baby, so she got sidetracked…,” notes Gloria. “But she was always lovely and warm and generous. We talked a lot on the set…[and] afterwards.”

The “Conga” singer says when Rivera first went missing, she held out hope that she’d survived.

“Because I’m a boater and I’m a mom, I was hoping that maybe what had happened is that after she put the baby on the boat, maybe she’d gotten pulled away by a current and could somehow find her way to the shore,” Gloria recalls.

“I can only imagine those last moments. It’s brutal,” she says sadly.

But, Gloria concludes, “She leaves behind a wonderful legacy. I’ve sent a lot of prayers and good thoughts to that baby boy and her family. She was very beloved on that [Glee] set and was a great human being.” 

Gloria’s new album Brazil305 comes out on Friday.

By Andrea Dresdale
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