Meet Naya Rivera Okay, confession time – We may have caught the odd episode because our girlfriend has dibs on the remote when we crash at hers. We may have sung along to Don’t Stop Believin’ in the shower. And we may have borrowed our sister’s boxset because a significant percentage of the two-time Golden Globe Award winning show’s cast are extraordinarily hot girls – several of whom are permanently clad in cheerleader skirts. Naya Rivera is the sexiest of this pom-pom-shaking pack, referred to on the show as ‘The Cheerios’.
The Californian temptress plays Santana Lopez, a manipulative minx, who’s reached a variety of bases with a variety of male characters – but is now tickling the tonsils of fellow cheerleader Brittany (the insanely smiley blonde played by former Beyoncé backing dancer Heather Morris). It’s a saucy girl-on-girl storyline that could have prompted complaints, petitions and incandescent Daily Mail headlines. It didn’t, thankfully. Instead it gave way to a well-deserved flood of international celebration and arousal. “The reaction has been overwhelming,” admits the half-Puerto Rican 24-year-old. “I’ve had tons of mail from fans about how my storyline enabled them to come out.”
Naya, for the record, isn’t a lesbian. Nor is she dating any of her fellow cast members (the American press has linked her to several of them). She is, however, a seasoned pro at this acting malarkey, having first cooed in front of a TV camera at age four. “It was an Eddie Murphy-produced sitcom called The Royal Family, but I didn’t know how big a deal it was.” she recalls. “All I knew was that I had to get up every day to learn lines.” Small roles in some iconic shows followed – including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Baywatch.
And then, in 2009, Naya crashed into the mind of every single man who’s watched Glee. “It’s amazing,” smiles Naya, who’s just signed a debut record deal with Columbia Records. “Originally, Santana was only going to be in an episode or two, but the writers just keep coming up with brilliant things for her to do.”
So what can we expect from Santana next season?
More of the same – singing, dancing and drama, she’s so mean and bitchy, I love her.
Does she remind you of yourself?
Ha! Not at all, I’m really easygoing nowadays. Mind you, when I was 17 things were a little different…
I used to be an extroverted wild child, which is probably why I got into acting and singing. I was very outspoken and didn’t really like conforming to a bunch of rules. And since that’s basically what high school involves, it meant I was always getting into trouble.
Kind of. We didn’t have detention – we had Saturday school – which was brutal, as you had to go to classes on a Saturday, then clean up the trash in the playground. Nasty.
Did this wild child phase coincide with your tattoo phase? You’ve got a fair few…
Not exactly, but I am out of that too. I like the tattoos I have [including a shooting star on her right foot and a bow on the back of her neck], but I think six is enough – even if they are all really small and hidden.
Is it true a British fan has your picture tattooed on her stomach?
Not quite. She has ‘Naya’ tattooed on her stomach. I met her in Manchester when her and a friend were camping outside the arena where the Glee live show was on. They couldn’t afford tickets, so I gave two to her to thank her for being my biggest fan.
How was the Glee tour? Did you all eat, drink and sleep on a massive bus?
We actually all flew on a little private jet, which was a bit cramped, but lots of fun because we got to have a mini party every night.
Did you have a rider?
Cory Monteith [who plays singing quarterback Finn Hudson] requested a mouse and Dianna Agron [who plays Quinn Fabray, the pretty-but-unfriendly blonde cheerleading captain] requested a baby elephant. And I stipulated that I wanted jars of green M&Ms… Just kidding. If we got a slice of pizza at the end of the night we were happy campers.
We hear you’re a massive hoarder. Have you nabbed a Cheerio outfit yet?
I have taken so, so many things, but I haven’t taken a Cheerio outfit yet. I don’t have to, as I wear it every day. Not that this is my one and only cheerleading outfit. They like to keep us clean, so there are several.
You don’t always act clean. When presenting the gay and lesbian-celebrating GLAAD Media Awards, you said: “I had an acceptance speech prepared, which I will pull out from my tits.” Did you get in trouble for that?
Not at all and that’s the beauty of Glee. Even though we play high-school students, everybody knows that we are young adults who have a sense of humour and want to have a good time.
Like going to Vegas for your birthday…
Yeah, I’ve celebrated my 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th there, so it has become a bit of a tradition. I take my friends and my friends from the show and we hole up in a hotel room for the best part of the day and then head to a club. It’s a fantastic way to spend 24 hours with your close friends.
How about your FHM shoot – was that a good way to spend a few hours?
I had such a blast and all of the outfits were great as they fitted in with my laidback style. Although I love the Cinderella moments of dressing up for premieres and award shows – at home I can mostly be found wearing cute T-shirts and jeans.
You’re brandishing a pillow in one shot. When was the last pillow fight you were in?
The Glee girls had a pillow fight in the last episode of season two. Our characters were supposed to be writing songs in a New York hotel room, but we got kind of rowdy and started hitting each other. I’m not sure who won, but I do know that I am definitely to be feared in a pillow confrontation – I take no prisoners.