TIME OUT WITH: Naya Rivera
Best Known For: Playing cheerleader Santana Lopez on the FOX TV show “Glee”
Hometown: Valencia, CA
AC: You’re about to become a household name as devious cheerleader, Santana Lopez, on FOX’s new show, “Glee.” How’d you score such a cool gig?
Naya: I’m still waiting to wake up from what feels like a dream! My character, Santana, is so much fun to play, and we had an amazing response to the pilot, which aired last May. I auditioned three times, and they wanted me to sing. I sang “Emotions” by the Bee Gees. I was so nervous, but was so exciting to get the role.
AC: You were never a cheerleader in real life. How do you feel about playing one on the show? Have you learned any cheerleading?
Naya: I begged my parents to let me join the cheer squad my freshman year, but in the end, I was too busy acting for the time commitment it takes to be on a squad, and I didn’t want to let the other girls down.
With that said, playing a cheerleader on the show gives me a chance to fulfill my abandoned high school dreams. I absolutely love playing a cheerleader. I get to wear a uniform for most of my scenes, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn some cheer moves. It’s hard work! Recently, I was put on top of a pyramid for the first time in my life, and my inner thighs are still burning from perfecting my side splits.
AC: You have an impressive acting resumé, which includes appearances on “Even Stevens” with Shia LaBeouf and “The Bernie Mac Show” with the late comedic actor. How did you get into the entertainment world in the first place?
Naya: I’ve been acting pretty much my entire life. My mom moved to California with my dad to pursue modeling and then shifted her focus to me when I was a year old. She got me the same print agent she had, and I started doing catalogs and baby commercials. She drove me to auditions for 16 years—until I was old enough to continue my pursuit alone. I’ve been going ever since and really owe a lot to her.
AC: What’s the best thing about working on “Glee?”
Naya: Being surrounded by so many awesome people! The material itself is a joy to be a part of because we’re always laughing, but the other cast members are really what make going to work every day worthwhile. Imagine being surrounded by 15 of the funniest people you know, all day, every day. That’s what working on “Glee” is like. My cheeks hurt from laughing so much. That’s heaven to me.
AC: Why should our readers tune in to the show?
Naya: It’s so funny! It’s energetic and truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen. After watching the show, it’ll leave you wanting more. Also, I think all the awesome cheerleaders out there will identify with and get a kick out of our cheer squad!
AC: What do you do in your spare time?
Naya: I like to consume copious amounts of sushi, shop, hang out with my friends and read. I love reading and become quite the bookworm during my time off.
AC: Are there any celebs you’ve been star struck over meeting?
Naya: I can’t say I’ve ever been star struck. But on that fine day when I come into contact with the Jonas Bothers, I’ll have to be air-lifted to Cedars Sinai Hospital, stat!
AC: You help to raise money for cancer research. Why is this cause so important to you? How can teens help?
Naya: I’m grateful to be able to lend a hand with a number of organizations and causes. [Former cheerleader] Eva Longoria hosts a Parents Against Cancer event every year, and I’m so happy to be able to attend and honor those people who are making a difference in the fight against this terrible disease. I think it’s important for teens to volunteer in a field they’re passionate about. Whether it’s animal abuse, HIV/AIDS or the environment—a little effort goes a long way.
AC: You’re also really passionate about boosting self-esteem in young people. Do you have any tips for teens who are struggling with self-esteem issues?
Naya: I struggled with low self-esteem when I was younger, and still to this day I have to work on it. It takes a lot to accept yourself as you are and truly be happy with you. My advice to anyone who’s struggling with this would be to give it time and try to notice all the great qualities you possess. There are always going to be things you don’t like about yourself or reasons to compare yourself to others, but once you realize that you only get one you, it’s best to just love yourself.
AC: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing?
Naya: I’d be a writer. I love writing. I may still look into that some day.
CHECK OUT “GLEE”, WEDNESDAY, SEPT 9 ON FOX!