Naya Rivera’s family is remembering the late “Glee” star, saying there are “no words to describe what we’re going through” exactly a year after she was reported missing.
In an interview on “Good Morning America” on Thursday, Rivera’s mother, Yolanda Previtire, reflected on her daughter’s legacy and shared what life has been like since the actor tragically died in a boating accident on Southern California’s Lake Piru.
“Sometimes we’re afraid of the sorrow being so heavy that we’re afraid for our own self, ’cause this is hard,” Previtire said, adding that the family is in therapy to deal with the trauma. “All we know is we have each other.”
Rivera went missing in July 2020 after renting a boat with her 4-year-old son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, who was found alone on the pontoon hours after it was due for return. Following days of searching, Rivera’s body was pulled from the water, and authorities ruled her death an accidental drowning.
For the first time, Previtire shared details about her final conversation with her daughter on the lake.
“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 said, holding back tears. “She had a white, beautiful swimming suit on and she was glowing.”
Previtre recalled warning her daughter that “the water’s gettin’ choppy” and encouraged her to head toward a cove where the lake tends to be “a little bit calmer.” Before hanging up, she then told Naya to call her when they got off the water.
During the conversation, Previtire also took screenshots of Josey fishing from the boat. The photos ultimately helped police locate Rivera’s body during the dayslong search, which Rivera’s sister Nickayla described as “absolute hell.”
Rivera’s sister, who has since moved in with Rivera’s ex-husband and their son, said that she “knew the role that I had to take” after the tragedy and that the family is taking things “one day at a time.”
“Living it to the fullest, loving each other to the fullest, and not regretting anything,” Nickayla said. “Because I know if we could go back, we’d hug a little bit harder.”
As for how Rivera’s young son is coping a year later, Previtire shared that she sees Josey as “a boy version of” of her daughter “in every sense of the word,” pointing out “his tenacity, his drive, his zeal, his adventure for life.”
“And the biggest thing is he loves entertaining,” Nickayla added. “He loves singing at the top of his lungs.”
Rivera’s mother and sister also spoke about the outpouring of love and support from “Glee” fans, noting just how important Rivera’s character Santana Lopez was to the LGBTQ community.
“I honestly don’t think that she even knew the impact that she had,” Nickayla said. “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.”
“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,” Previtire added. “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.”
In April, the “Glee” cast appeared virtually together to honor Rivera’s legacy at the 2021 GLAAD Media Awards, which marked the 10th anniversary of her character’s coming out on the Fox comedy she starred in from 2009 to 2015.
Before Rivera’s body was found, some of her “Glee” co-stars gathered at the lake where she disappeared and were photographed holding hands on the shore alongside Rivera’s family.
Rivera was the third major “Glee” cast member to die before the age of 40. Her body was found exactly seven years after Cory Monteith died of a drug overdose at age 31. Mark Salling, who had been awaiting a sentence for charges of possessing explicit images of children, died by suicide in 2018.
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