When Glee fans got their first look into the personal life of Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) earlier this season, it was not a pretty picture. Santana came out as a lesbian to her beloved grandmother, only to be rejected and kicked out of her home. Fortunately, help is on the way.
"That bugged me. She needed a supportive mom," Gloria Estefan, who guest-stars as Santana's mom Maribel, tells TVGuide.com.
In the season finale (Tuesday at 9/8c on Fox), Santana's mom is introduced as the seniors prepare to get their diplomas and finalize their post-graduation plans. For the Lima Heights-adjacent native, that means saying goodbye to girlfriend Brittany (Heather Morris) and accepting her cheerleading scholarship to the University of Louisville.
Or will she? "For Maribel, the issue is not that her daughter is gay. The issue is that if something happens and she leaves and the other one doesn't — how is that going to affect her decision-making?" Estefan asks. "She really wants Santana to be educated and go to college."
After years of tough love from Santana's Abuela and her mom, Maribel's main priority is that Santana is happy. "She's Abuela's daughter, so imagine what she went through. That's a tough cookie," Estefan says. "Abuela probably told Maribel that although she had dreams of stardom and singing, she had a daughter and she had to get a job."
Maribel shares her daughter's vocal prowess, but don't expect to hear Estefan lend her famous pipes to any tunes this time around. "Not in this one. Hopefully I'll be back," Estefan says. "In a way, I'm happy because once I'm singing, it throws me more into Gloria Estefan-land. You can hear me sing everywhere else."
Instead, the self-proclaimed Glee fan says she gets to dish out some Santana-style acid-tongued one-liners. "The apple doesn't fall from the tree," she says with a laugh.
In the case of Estefan's guest role, the story line also doesn't stray far from reality. Estefan's own daughter and fellow Gleek is headed to college next year — a shared thread that was not lost on Estefan or her husband, Emilio. "My husband said, 'I'm used to seeing you all the time, but when you did that scene, I got all choked up,' because he's identifying too," she says. "We're already in a fetal position."
In anticipation of her daughter's departure, Estefan is keeping busy. On The CW's upcoming singing competition show, The Next, Estefan will be one of four mentors who travel to a city to immerse themselves in the culture and help mentor an aspiring artist or group from that locale. The chosen artists will then compete at the live nationals in Miami. "I need to have stuff to do because my daughter is leaving and I love this," she says. "Who knew there would be 5,400,362 music shows?"
Although she's well aware of the genre's crowded field — she watches The Voice and praises Jessica Sanchez on American Idol — Estefan isn't too worried. "Ultimately what's going to stick is what people are emotionally invested in. You have to click with people," she says.
Along those lines, Estefan isn't worried about what will happen to her on-screen daughter and the rest of McKinley High's Class of 2012 when Glee returns for Season 4. "You can't stay in high school forever. I think what people have identified with are these characters and their talent and their lives. People are invested," she says. "There's an audience for these characters out there."
Glee's season finale airs Tuesday at 9/8c on Fox.