Glee's Kevin McHale and Rivera’s sister Nickayla also paid tribute to the late star.
Naya Rivera would’ve turned 35 years old on Jan. 12. The Glee star died after a drowning accident in July of 2020. Coinciding with her birthday, a few people who were close to Rivera have recently reflected on her life and legacy.
Ryan Dorsey, who is the father of Rivera’s son Josey, opened up to People in a story published on Rivera’s birthday about raising their son. "She knew how willing Josey was to share his things, but she'd be so proud to see how he'll give things he loves away to friends or donate them," Dorsey said in a statement to People.
Rivera’s personality has seemingly passed down to Josey. Dorsey said they share a similar laugh. “[Josey] has this unique literal laugh-out-loud cackle of [a] laugh when he's watching TV that's kind of obnoxiously endearing like hers was, but his even more so,” he said.
However, Dorsey told People it’s been “surreal” without Rivera. “At least once a day I find myself shaking my head, like it's still unbelievable, so surreal that she’s gone,” he said. “She'd be freaking out today. I could almost hear her: 'OMG, I'm almost 40!’”
Dorsey wasn’t the only family member to recently reflect on Rivera’s impact on their life. Her younger sister Nickayla Rivera also shared a remembrance on Jan. 10, though her comments did not seem to be related to Rivera’s birthday.
In a new YouTube video titled “allow me to reintroduce myself,” Nickayla opened up about a newfound perspective on life. This included recalling the immediate impact Rivera’s death had on her family.
“My whole family was in complete shock,” Nickayla said in the video. “It was like someone pulled the rug from under us, and we didn’t see it coming.” Nickayla said her mental health took a hit during this period, leaving her in a “dark place.”
Fortunately, Nickayla said in the video that she’s gained a new perspective, thanks in part by prioritizing herself. “Now I look at life for what it is,” she said. “An opportunity to show the world who you are, for your authentic self and nothing less.”
In addition to her family, Rivera’s former Glee co-star Kevin McHale also wished her a happy birthday. “Happy birthday, my little [bee]. I miss you every single day,” he said in a Twitter post, which included a photo of Rivera.
From her family to friends and many fans, Rivera’s legacy continues to live on.