Naya Rivera: a gleeful cheerleader for all those coming out | Rebecca Nicholson

Her groundbreaking character Santana Lopez was truly inspirational

In 2009, a camp, darkly funny, high-school musical-drama-comedy called Glee exploded on to our television screens. It was an instant hit, the kind of rare phenomenon that sets the cultural conversation. It took the strange world of US show choirs and turned it into an entertainment juggernaut, making huge stars out of its young cast.

Naya Rivera played head cheerleader Santana Lopez with such vivacity that she went from being a peripheral character into one of the real stars of the show. Her slow coming-out story saw her evolve from a typical mean girl, albeit a deeply witty one, to a complex character who demanded that we root for her, even though she could, in her own words, “cut a bitch”. She tore through the show’s tweeness with an armoury of insults, but developed from a caricature of a high-school bully into a parable of self-loathing who learned to love herself. She went from a teenager in the closet who was “not interested in any labels, unless it’s on something I shoplift”, survived a painful coming-out to her abuela, who rejected her, and eventually became a proudly married, well, very young adult, because Glee was free and easy when it came to weddings and it never said no to a proposal, no matter how age-inappropriate.

So much of the power of Santana was down to Rivera’s performance. The tragedy of her death, at 33, in a drowning accident, has led to moving tributes from her cast mates and fans, which have highlighted how much Santana Lopez meant to them. The singer Demi Lovato, who had a cameo playing Santana’s girlfriend, wrote: “The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted queer girls (like me at the time) and open queer girls. Your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world.”

Glee’s creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck and Ian Brennan released a statement that affirmed just how groundbreaking she and her character had been. “It was one of the first times an openly lesbian, high-school relationship was seen on network television,” they wrote. “Naya always made sure that Santana’s love for Brittany was expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions.” Rivera was aware, they said, of how much Santana meant to those seeing themselves represented on screen for the first time. Since Glee ended in 2015, Rivera’s legacy has been crucial, for so many people who saw themselves on screen in the indomitable Santana Lopez.

Salute Demi Moore, queen of the shagpile confession

Demi Moore
Demi Moore: a plug for carpet in the bathroom. Photograph: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

One of my favourite headlines of recent days has been this short story in a sentence, from People magazine: “Demi Moore Reveals Why She Records Her New Erotic Podcast From Her Funky Bathroom”. The funky bathroom in question has instigated a revival of the debate about whether a carpet in a bathroom is weird, a conundrum so 70s that it should be discussed over a prawn cocktail and a creme de menthe. In an interview with Seth Myers, she blamed her ex-husband Bruce Willis for the initial carpeting decision, eventually pointing out that in Idaho, in the mountains, the floor gets cold. It never got that cold in north Lincolnshire, but nevertheless, my grandparents persisted.

During lockdown, most celebrities have opted for a background that sits between “Airbnb walk-in wardrobe” and “meeting room at an internet startup for the over-50s”. Most filmed interviews are non-revealing, against a blank canvas offering no glimpse of a personal life. Whether you are pro- or anti-carpet, Moore’s willingness to show the details of her bathroom/erotic podcast studio is a break, at least, from the airless neutrality of a tastefully anonymous bookshelf.

No wonder Tom Kerridge has a beef with no-shows

Tom Kerridge
Tom Kerridge: all steamed up and rightly so. Photograph: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Last weekend, the chef Tom Kerridge took to social media to express his dismay at the 27 people who had made reservations for one of his restaurants and then failed to show up. “This industry, like many others, is on the verge of collapse,” he said. “Your behaviour is disgraceful, shortsighted and downright unhelpful.” He wrote this as a caption, accompanied by a picture of Gerard Butler looking furious in the film 300. Funnily enough, Butler looking furious is almost exactly how I remember most of the pub chefs I worked for when I was a teenage waitress, who were furious about everything, all of the time.

Obviously, the Gordon Ramsay brand of shouty-boss aside, professional chefs these days are much more composed, though Kerridge was right to be furious. No-shows have long been a problem in the restaurant business and are much more than an inconvenience. They are costly, because the restaurant turns away other customers, who could pay, for a table that will not be used. No-shows mess up staffing numbers and kitchen timings. It may be that as dining out resumes, a deposit system will have to become the norm.

Now, when top restaurants are announcing that they won’t bother reopening and when chefs at all levels are making horrible decisions about whether it’s even worth pushing through, not turning up is more than rude - it’s devastating. As Kerridge says, much of the industry is on the verge of collapse. One can only hope that customers who might not have previously understood the consequences of a no-show will now get the message.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


Rebecca Nicholson

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