Demi Lovato has paid a heartfelt tribute to Naya Rivera, praising her ''ground-breaking'' character on 'Glee'.

The singer-and-actress, who played Naya's character Santana Lopez's girlfriend Dani in the fifth season of the musical comedy-drama series, admitted she will ''forever cherish'' the opportunity to have portrayed her on-screen lover, after the actress died aged 33 this week.

Naya's body was found on Monday (13.07.20) following a six-day search operation after she went missing on Lake Piru, California, while out on a boat with her four-year-old son Josey.

Demi wrote on Instagram: ''RIP Naya Rivera. I'll forever cherish the opportunity to play your girlfriend on Glee.''

The 27-year-old star - who is bisexual - also admitted Naya's character Santana had a huge impact on ''closeted queer girls'' like her.

She wrote: ''The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted queer girls (like me at the time) and open queer girls, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world. My heart goes out to your loved ones at this time. (sic)''

Demi was a recurring guest star in the fifth series of 'Glee', during which she played New York-based artist Dani who became friends with Santana - and embarked on a short romance with her - and she also befriended Lea Michele's character Rachel Berry.

Police confirmed on Monday that Naya's body had been found in the lake, and an autopsy is to be held to determine the cause of her death.

A tweet on the Ventura County Sheriff's official Twitter account read: ''Sheriff Ayub has confirmed the body recovered at Lake Piru today was Naya Rivera.

''Our hearts go out to her family, friends and fans during this difficult time. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of her death.''