Gloria Estefan Says Her ‘Heart Ripped to Shreds’ After ‘Glee’ Co-Star Naya Rivera’s Death (Exclusive)

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Gloria Estefan is opening up about the death of her Glee co-star, Naya Rivera. Rivera died in a boating accident in California in July.

Estefan played Maribel Lopez, the mother of Naya's character, Santana Lopez, on the hit Fox musical comedy.

“It was a brutal loss,” Estefan told ET’s Nischelle Turner while promoting her new album, Brazil305. “She was the nicest, warmest person. A lovely girl [and] triple threat. I send a lot of prayers out to that family.”

“What's an interesting thing, too, that I thought about later -- I played her mother and [her character] came out in that show. And then, without even knowing [it] … that was going to be also me [in real life],” Estefan added, referring to being a parent to her daughter, Emily, who is a lesbian.

Estefan also shared how she reacted to news that Rivera was missing by trying to concoct more hopeful explanations in her mind.

“I'm a boater. I've been on a boat with my small child and I was hoping maybe she'd gotten them up on the boat then somehow been caught up in the current and made it to shore,” she said. “I was inventing all these scenarios that could have been. At the same time, knowing that baby had been alone for so long in the boat -- that didn't bode well.”

“When I saw her mom kneeling by that lake, my heart just ripped to shreds because I know what she had to be feeling, and it's horrendous,” Estefan continued.

Naya Rivera Gloria Estefan Glee
FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

Heartbroken at the loss, Estefan is also sending out good vibes following another celebrity's accident -- Simon Cowell's. Cowell broke his back and required surgery that included placing a metal rod in his back, following a recent biking mishap.

Estefan required the same surgery following a tour bus crash in 1990.

“Rehab, rehab, rehab -- the minute it's possible,” she said about the best way to recover from the procedure. “It's going to be a while. It's quite something after they put rods in you. It's incredibly important that he do the rehab. I’m sure he'll get back to it. He's a strong guy.”

Three decades on from the accident, Estefan isn’t slowing down. She rerecorded new takes on hits like “Conga,” giving them a Brazilian sound, for Brazil305, her first album in seven years. The record also features new tracks.

“Rarely do artists get to re-sing their original hits decades after and in a whole new vibe that is some of my favorite music -- Brazilian music,” Estefan said. “So, it was really a joy to do, and it debuted number one [all] over the world!”

Estefan also has a new project in the works, Red Table Talk: The Estefans, featuring Emily, as well as her niece, Lili.

The trio will begin filming next week, having been rehearsing via Zoom, and the project will debut in the fall. Estefan said she headed to Los Angeles pre-pandemic to see how Jada Pinkett Smith films her Red Table Talk series.

“The minute the three of us get on talking mode, they would have to stop us, [like,] ‘No, no, no, we don’t want you talking about this subject,’” Estefan says of her, Emily and Lili’s tendency to talk about anything and everything. “They came up with a word, ‘pineapple,’ to shut us up, so we've been pineappling a lot.”

The family project reflects how her loved ones are of utmost importance to Estefan.

In fact, she recently ordered a hazmat suit to be able to hug her grandson on his birthday. “I opened the package, put the suit on and said to my son, ‘You're not going to prevent me from hugging my grandchild,’” she shared. “I came to Miami for five days around his birthday. [I’ll] never forget that feeling for as long as I live.”

See more on Estefan below.

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