Naya Rivera died on July 8, 2020 after disappearing during a trip to a California lake

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Tahj Mowry is paying tribute to Naya Rivera a year after her death. 

The Glee actress tragically drowned on July 8, 2020 at age 33. Her body was found in the waters of Lake Piru, 60 miles north of Los Angeles, five days after she went missing during an afternoon excursion in a rented pontoon boat with her son Josey, now 5½. 

On Thursday, Mowry, who starred with Rivera in the sitcom Smart Guy and dated her between 2000 to 2004, posted a photo of them on Instagram in honor of the anniversary and told Entertainment Tonight that "she's in a better place."

"I'm good. Out of the utmost love and respect for her family, it's always hard for me to even speak about how I feel about it because it's nowhere near the pain that her mother, her sister, her brother, her father, her ex-husband, her son, had to deal with and are still dealing with," he told the outlet.

Mowry, 34, continued, "My love and respect goes out to them above all, but I'm good and she's in a better place. ... You know what I mean? So that is where I can find the joy and the peace."

Mowry praised the late star as "the spitting image of what women are capable of doing."

"She was so strong, she was hilarious, oh my God, and so talented, so talented," he continued. "Her voice always was the best I had ever heard."

In her 2016 memoir, Sorry Not Sorry, Rivera revealed that Mowry was her first boyfriend. Last month, the actor opened up about Rivera in an interview with Glamour, calling her his "first celebrity crush."

"I have so much respect for her family," he said. "I still am in communication with them, so I just want to make sure I'm respectful of that and what her family is going through. She was definitely my first everything. I think subconsciously it's why I never really date like that because no one really ever... I know someday someone might, but it's hard to measure up to the type of girl and woman she was."

Tahj Mowry, Naya Rivera
Tahj Mowry and Naya Rivera
| Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Mowry previously shared an emotional post in honor of Rivera as police were searching for the actress after she went missing, writing at the time that the situation felt like "a nightmare."

"We grew up together. We became adults together. We experienced so many firsts together. You were my first experience with everything; love, intimacy, heartbreak. We broke each others hearts and then mended them back together...more than once," he wrote alongside a photo of the two.

"I will never not think of you," he continued. "No woman has ever measured up what you gave me or how you made me feel. I've never liked to admit it but I have never stopped loving you. A part of me always wished for the day where God would bring us back together to be what we dreamt we could have been."