Over a year after "Glee" star Naya Rivera’s sudden death, her sister, Nickayla, is speaking out about getting out of a “dark place” and rediscovering herself after the loss.
On Monday, Nickayla Rivera uploaded a video to her YouTube channel titled “allow me to reintroduce myself.” She was previously active on the platform, but she stopped posting videos for the past four years.
In the nearly 10-minute video, Nickayla Rivera detailed her upbringing and how she became involved in the modeling world at a young age. While she spoke about her childhood and pursuing her dreams, clips of her playing as a child with her late older sister appeared.
She opened up about how comparing herself to other models caused her to lose confidence and affected her mentally to the point where she was in a "dark place." However, she felt like 2020 was going to be her year to bounce back by doing more modeling shoots and taking risks.
“Then five months later, COVID hit,” she recalled. “I got to spend a lot of time with my family, which I hadn’t had before because I was always traveling and I was always working.”
Nickayla Rivera continued, “But then five months later my family and I experienced a tragic loss in July of 2020. My sister, Naya, passed away. And when that happened, I was in complete shock. My whole family was in complete shock.”
She said the experience felt like “someone pulled the rug from under us and we didn’t see it coming.”
“The dark place that I was in before only progressed when that happened,” she shared. “At that time, I had no thoughts of my future. I had no thoughts of myself, really. I was only just experiencing pain.”
She said she realized her pain following the loss of her sister would not go away until she “decided to find the good in this world.”
“So, from then on, I went on this journey of discovering who I was,” she said.
She started to make some adjustments in her life. The first change she made was quitting vaping, a habit she picked up due to her stressful experience in New York City.
“And quitting that was really hard, but when I did, I felt so empowered,” she explained. “I felt like I could do anything after that.”
Nickayla Rivera made a few other changes like going to therapy, journaling about her feelings, being mindful and confronting hurtful experiences from the past that she was still holding on to.
She ended the video with an encouraging message, saying, “They say we only have one life, so live it. But, I feel like we only have one day. We only have this one moment. The next moment is not promised. So, live this moment like you still live.”
On July 13, 2020, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office in California confirmed Naya Rivera's body had been recovered at Lake Piru after a dayslong search. She was 33 years old.
The actor went missing the week prior after renting a pontoon boat with her then-4-year-old son, Josey. Her son was later found asleep alone on the boat. The autopsy report conducted by the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Naya Rivera’s cause of death to be accidental drowning.
During a press conference at the time, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said officials believed Naya Rivera spent her final moments saving her son by boosting him back onto the boat.
“Side by side or miles apart, our connection is infinite. Our bond is unbreakable,” she wrote on Instagram next to a throwback black-and-white photo of her giving her older sister a kiss on the cheek.
She ended the post by writing, “My shmaya, I’ll love you for eternity & miss you every second of my life.”