"No matter how young she was, no matter how busy she was, no matter how successful she was, she was just always just very giving, very loving of her time," Tia Mowry-Hardrict said of Naya Rivera

By Morgan M. Evans and Morgan M. Evans
July 23, 2020 03:42 PM
Advertisement

Tia Mowry-Hardrict is remembering her good friend Naya Rivera and her "beautiful soul."

In a recent interview with PEOPLE, the mother of two shared just how much Rivera, who accidentally drowned while swimming at Lake Piru in California, meant to her. The actress's brother Tahj Mowry became close friends as fellow child actors, and he has called her his first love.

"I have known Naya ever since she was a little girl. And some of my favorite memories of Naya ... was just her being a part of our family. Just simple things like her helping my sister and I find our house that we were looking for," Mowry-Hardrict recalled. "We were kicked out of the house when we  25 years old and our parents were like, 'Y'all need to get out of this house. We need our own house.' And Naya, she had helped us look for a house ...  just hanging out with her and Tahj, just enjoying the nightlife in L.A."

She continued, "I would say the thing that I love about Naya ... she was always dependable. Whenever I needed her, she was always there without hesitation."

"She was always willing to give and to be present. She was always present. No matter how young she was, no matter how busy she was, no matter how successful she was, she was just always just very giving, very loving of her time, of her joy, of her love," Mowry-Hardrict said.

Tia Mowry, Naya Rivera
Tia Mowry/Instagram

Concluding, the actress added that Rivera was a "beautiful spirit, beautiful soul" and had a " beautiful heart."

"Not only beautiful on the outside, but beautiful on the inside. And she will always be in our hearts forever," she said.

Rivera was confirmed dead on July 13, five days after she was reported missing following an outing to Lake Piru with her 4-year-old son, Josey, whom she shared with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey. Her body was discovered in the lake that morning.

A few days before Rivera's body was found, Tahj spoke out about Rivera, sharing a touching post about how she impacted his life.

“My sweet Naya - to say that I am devastated would be an understatement. This is a nightmare. Everyday gets harder. However, I am holding onto hope that you will be found,” Taj, 34, wrote on Instagram alongside a black-and-white photo of the Glee star.

“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 continued, as he seemingly confirmed the pair had dated in the past. “I will never not think of you. 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."

Tahj Mowry and Naya Rivera
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

He continued: “I pray deeply for the Rivera family and that God blankets them with strength, peace, and love right now. Mychal and Nickayla - you will always be like younger siblings to me and I love you dearly. I watched you two grow up into beautiful adults. George and Yolanda - whatever you need I am here for you. We are forever family and I love you."

Touching on the "hurdles" 2020 has presented, from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, Mowry-Hardrict explained that things have been a tad "overwhelming," but her family is banding together to get through it all. She shares son Cree, 9, and daughter Cairo, 2, with husband Cory Hardrict.

"I think it's just about just keeping everybody busy, trying to remain optimistic. But, like I said, I would like to shoot you straight, once I felt like I got a hold on [the pandemic], then the Black Lives Matter movement came and it was like, 'Oh my gosh.' It was just very overwhelming," the BIC Kids partner admitted.

"Even where we live, you can hear the protests going on. And then, of course, after that my beautiful, wonderful family friend ended up passing away ... " Mowry-Hardrict said. "There've been a lot of hurdles, but we are getting through it and we are a strong family and we lean on each other and that is what really, really keeps us going."