The world is still mourning Naya Rivera’s loss one year later.
The actress’ drowning was a shocking tragedy in the summer of 2020. Fans rallied around Josey Dorsey, the son she left behind, especially it was later revealed that she saved him with her last ounce of strength before her own death. Of course, as much as we all miss the Glee alum, her absence is still felt strongest by her family and those who knew her best.
Naya’s mother, Yolanda Previtire, and sister, Nickayla Rivera, spoke to Good Morning America about their memories of Naya and the tragedy on Thursday. Yolanda admitted:
“Sometimes we’re afraid of the sorrow being so heavy that we’re afraid for our own self, ’cause this is hard. There are no words to describe what we’re going through. All we know is we have each other.”
She emotionally recalled speaking with her daughter on that fateful day:
“I missed two of her FaceTime calls, and I called her back. And we had a beautiful conversation. The sun was kissing her face and she was just beautiful. She had a white, beautiful swimming suit on and she was glowing.”
While on the phone, Yolanda took screenshots of Josey, photos which later helped authorities locate her daughter’s body. Casting themselves back to that time, she and her youngest daughter called the multi-day search “hell on earth.” The mother of three remembered being informed of the situation, revealing:
“He told us he said, ‘Don’t worry, we have Josey but your daughter’s missing.’ And it was almost like a force. I don’t know what it was but I literally — I was just pushed backwards, just screaming. I just ran backwards, if you can imagine, just screaming and I ended up in the bathroom. I slammed the door, I was on the floor and I had to gather myself.”
“My faith told me that nothing is missing, surely not a person. Yes, we just can’t find them. So that was my thing. God, you know where she’s at, just bring her back to us.”
The 33-year-old’s body was found while Yolanda had Josey at her house (“eating his pancakes, ’cause that was his favorite thing to do at Grandma’s house.”) Since then, the grandmother told the outlet:
“I feel Naya’s energy constantly telling me, ‘Mom, be happy. Don’t cry. I’m OK. Go get Josey. Have fun.’ And I feel that it’s coming from her. I literally wake up every morning, and it’s almost like a restart button, and I have to shake it off … one foot at a time. And here we are.”
“I see Josey, and it’s almost like it’s so reminiscent because he’s like a boy version of her in every sense of the word. Just his tenacity, his drive his zeal, his adventure for life.”
“It’s almost like we’re feeding off each other and lifting each other up. Josey has lifted me up so many times. He’s comforting that way, and we do the same for him.”
After Naya’s death, the 4-year-old asked his aunt to move in with him and his father, Ryan Dorsey. Nickayla stated:
“I’m very grateful to be able to help him transition into whatever he’s going to be next. I knew right when it happened, right when we got him, I knew the role that I had to take. That was a big change, and something that I had to get used to too.”
The model admitted that “if we could go back, we’d hug a little bit harder.” But mostly she praised her sister’s legacy, particularly in her role as the lesbian cheerleader Santana Lopez. She recalled fans frequently telling Naya she had saved their life:
“I honestly don’t think that she even knew the impact that she had. … My sister, even though she was acting, was touching people’s real lives and helping them become who they really are and not being ashamed of that. It was just really amazing to see that she had that impact.”
The 27-year-old added:
“She persevered, she motivated herself and she got to where she needed to be to inspire all of those people around the world.”
“I would like my daughter Naya’s legacy to be one that teaches people to love, to care. If something is not right, try to fix it or speak up. And to just live life. God has given you one life. You are your own person. Love who you are, ’cause you don’t get another life.”
Naya’s loss is still devastating to so many. We hope her memory and her legacy is a comfort to those who loved her. Keeping her family in our thoughts.
Watch the GMA interview (below):
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