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The 'Glee' Stars' Tragic Fate: Cory Monteith, Mark Salling, Naya Rivera, And Others

The show brought joy to many, but some cast members have experienced unimaginable tragedies.
PHOTO: FOX/Glee
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*Trigger warning: This story discusses sensitive issues such as drug use, suicide, and domestic abuse.

Glee, a musical show that inspired millions, is no stranger to tragedy. Using music to touch the lives of its audience, the series followed teenagers as they meandered through the minefield of adolescence. While all the characters found a happy ending in one way or another, the same cannot be said of its cast.

Since the show began, three major cast members have died tragic deaths, one became a victim of domestic abuse, and another star's career has been ruined by allegations of racism. Read on to learn their stories.

  1. Naya Rivera

    GLEE - If I Die Young (Full Performance) + Break Down

    Naya Rivera played Santana Lopez, a cheerleader with a fiery disposition. Originally written as a stereotypical mean girl, Naya gave Santana a level of depth that made her unforgettable. Rivera disappeared when she went on a boat ride with her four-year-old son in a lake in Southern California. Her son was found alive, but Rivera was missing from the boat. Her body was later found on July 13, confirmed her death. Oddly enough, her body was found washed up on shore on the seventh anniversary of another co-star's death: Cory Monteith.

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    A number of strange coincidences have been unearthed by netizens since news broke of her death. For one, one of Rivera's most moving performances in the show was a cover of "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry. She also played a child who drowned in "Baywatch" in her younger years.

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    She was 33 at the time of her death.

  2. Cory Monteith

    Glee - Seasons of Love (Full performance) 5x03

    Cory Monteith, who played lead character Finn Hudson, died of a drug overdose in 2013 after a long battle with drug and alcohol abuse. He died in a hotel room in Vancouver, and his death was ruled accidental.

    His death was a shock to the Glee cast, crew, and fans, as the show was still running at the time of his death. To commemorate his death, Glee writers produced a tribute episode for Cory wherein the characters mourned the death of his character Finn through song.

    One of those songs was "If I Die Young" performed by the now-deceased Rivera in memory of Monteith. Monteith was dating Lea Michele at the time of his death.

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    Cory was 31.

  3. Mark Salling

    Prior to his death, Mark Salling was embroiled in a number of controversies. In 2013, his ex-girlfriend accused him of sexual battery when he forced her to have unprotected sex without her consent. The issue was settled out of court, but in 2015, the ex-girlfriend tipped off the police regarding Salling's secret stash of thousands of photos and videos of child pornography. He pled guilty in 2017, but died by suicide in 2018 before he could begin his prison sentence.

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    Prior to all these controversies, Salling dated Rivera for three years before they went their separate ways.

    He was 35 when he died.

  4. Melissa Benoist

    Melissa Benoist began her rise to fame when she starred as Marley Rose in Glee. It was on the show where she met co-star Blake Jenner. They began dating and were engaged by 2013. In 2016, just a few years after getting married, Benoist filed for a divorce citing "irreconcilable differences."

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    It was only in 2019 when she revealed that she suffered an eye injury in 2015 that caused one pupil to be permanently enlarged. At the time, she claimed it was because she fell down the stairs, but she later revealed that a phone was thrown at her during a fight.

    In a tell-all Instagram video in 2019, Benoist admitted she was a survivor of domestic violence.

    "I learned what it felt like to be pinned down and slapped repeatedly, punched so hard I felt the wind go out of me, dragged by my hair across pavement, head-butted, pinched until my skin broke, slammed against the wall so hard the drywall broke, choked," she said.

    Benoist now plays Supergirl in the hit CW show. She is also married to her co-star in the show, Chris Woods, and the two are expecting their first child.

  5. Lea Michele

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    Despite playing the lead character Rachel Berry in Glee, Lea Michele was later revealed to have a number of issues with her co-stars during filming. Her former co-stars accused her of bullying, racism, and outright rudeness.

    She reportedly made co-star Samantha Marie Ware's first TV job a "living hell" due to "traumatic microaggressions." Other co-stars, like Melissa Benoist, Alex Newell, Heather Morris, and Amber Riley later agreed with Ware's statements. Michele has since been dragged on social media, with many denouncing her behavior.

    Michele later issued a public apology for her actions in her youth, but that didn't stop an endorser from dropping her and claiming she was racist.

  6. Becca Tobin

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    Just a year after Monteith's death, his co-star Becca Tobin experienced another tragedy when her boyfriend, business owner Matt Bendik, also died in a hotel room at 31 years old.

    His death was sudden and unexplained, however, authorities ruled out foul play and no drugs were found in the hotel room. His family believes that he died of stress as he planned to expand his business before his death.

    Tobin played cheerleader Kitty Wilde in the series. Tobin and Bendik were planning to settle down and start a family before he died.