Naya Rivera’s 5-year-old son Josey is apparently just like his late mother. That’s what Yolanda Previtire, mother of the actress best known for her groundbreaking role on Glee, told ABC News’ Juju Chang during a Thursday morning appearance on Good Morning America commemorating the first anniversary of Rivera’s tragic death.
“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,” she said (h/t the Hollywood Reporter). “Just his tenacity, his drive his zeal, his adventure for life.”
A then 4-year-old Josey was boating with his mother on California’s Lake Piru in California on July 8, 2020, when the duo ran into some kind of distress while swimming. Rivera was able to get her young son back onboard the boat, where he was ultimately found by a fellow boater on the drifting craft. Unfortunately, his mother was unable to save herself, presumably becoming entangled in dense underwater vegetation.. After an extensive search, the 33-year-old’s body was located and recovered five days later and her death ruled an accidental drowning, to the anguish of family, friends and fans.
Previtire shared with GMA that she’d FaceTimed with her daughter and grandson before the accident. “And we had a beautiful conversation,” she recounted, sharing that she’d expressed concerns that the lake looked choppy but told Rivera to “call me when you get off the water.”
“The sun was kissing her face and she was just beautiful,” she added. She had a white, beautiful swimming suit on and she was glowing.”
In fact, it was screenshots she’d taken of Josey during that call that helped rescuers locate Rivera based on the area’s topography, a multi-day search Previtire understandably described as “hell on earth.”
“My faith told me that nothing is missing, surely not a person,” she recalled. “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.”
That hope faded as rescuers located Josey without his mother. “[I]t was almost like a force,” said Previtire. “I don’t know what it was but I literally—I was just pushed backwards, just screaming.”
A year later, the pain of Rivera’s loss is still very present. “Sometimes we’re afraid of the sorrow being so heavy that we’re afraid for our own self—’cause this is hard,” Previtire shared. “There are no words to describe what we’re going through...All we know is we have each other.”
That includes Rivera’s younger sister Nickayla, who told GMA she “knew the role that I had to take.” Following Naya’s death, she moved in with Josey and his father to assume the role of co-parent.
“Taking that one day at a time and living it to the fullest, loving each other to the fullest and not regretting anything,” Nickayla said, sharing that the entire family is in therapy to cope with the loss. “Because I know if we could go back, we’d hug a little bit harder.”
Rivera’s mother and sister also spoke about the actress’ impact through Glee, in which the storyline of her but deeply snarky but sensitive character Santana Lopez included coming out as a lesbian.
“I honestly don’t think that she even knew the impact that she had,” said Nickayla. “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’s—Naya’s—legacy to be one that teaches people to love,” Previtire added. “Love who you are because you don’t get another life.”