PASADENA, Calif. - When "Glee" actress Naya Rivera came to Knoxville recently, she saw she wasn't the only famous one in the family.
Her brother, Vols tight end Mychal Rivera, has his own kind of celebrity around town, and his famous sister witnessed it first hand. "He's a star in Knoxville," said the performer, who plays devious cheerleader Santana on the hit Fox series, during a network party Tuesday night.
"He was signing autographs and shaking hands with fans. It was really cool to see that."
The television personality paid a visit to Knoxville around Thanksgiving to see her brother. She attended the Tennessee/Kentucky game, spent time wandering around town and shopped at Walmart. Though Naya is usually the one getting all the attention when out in public, she took a backseat to her brother when she was in Knoxville.
"It wasn't weird for me. I know that kind of (fame) comes with being an athlete and will come when he goes pro someday. I love it. I am so proud he is doing well," she said. "I'm glad he's getting a little taste (of stardom) in Knoxville."
Oddly, Rivera didn't get much attention even when she walked the streets alone. Part of the reason comes from how she can change her look. Santana's sharp features are smoothed out when Naya isn't in character.
Also, she had a disguise while in Knoxville. "I wore glasses and a hat and kept my head down a lot," she said. "I felt so perfectly safe in Knoxville. It was great to just be able to walk the streets after dark and not feel threatened."
She let the rest of the world know she was here. Naya took to Twitter and sent messages about what a grand time she was having.
Naya and her brother are close. They didn't go out often, except to eat. "We mainly stayed in my hotel room and watched movies," she said. "It was a fun time."
When they did go out, Naya said she could not resist "having some good Southern food" that Knoxville offers. (Her favorite meal: Calhouns' ribs.)
"We're very low key, and my brother and I had some good bonding time. Knoxville is so sweet," she said. "I am a single female walking around at night and never felt odd about it.
"People were so friendly. If I had to stop and ask directions, I got more than directions. I got people telling me for an hour who they were and their awesome families. It was amazing. I love that."
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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