What happened to Naya Rivera's son Josey?

What happened to Naya Rivera’s son? Josey, 7, who was with his mother when she drowned, asks his father Ryan Dorsey ‘why’ she died but is ‘strong and resilient’ – and may follow in her footsteps as a performer

  • Josey Dorsey was 4 when Naya Rivera died on a mother-and-son boating trip
  • READ MORE: Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter Dannielynn Birkhead, 16, enjoys a quiet life out of the spotlight 

Josey Dorsey was just four years old when his mother, Glee star Naya Rivera, drowned in Lake Piru, LA on a mother and son day out in 2020.

The toddler was discovered curled up asleep on a rented boat on the evening of 8 July after he and his mother had headed out on the lake earlier that day. When Rivera was nowhere to be seen, Josey told police she had ‘jumped into the water but didn’t come back up’, TMZ reported.

After a five-day search, Rivera’s body was discovered in the lake on 13 July. She was just 33 years old.

Following her death in which it was determined Rivera had managed to push her son back onto the boat using her last bit of energy but was unable to save herself, Josey’s father Ryan Dorsey, also an actor, became his sole guardian.

Now seven years old and attending school, Josey and Dorsey are inseparable, going on holidays and trips out together – with Josey even joining his father at the gym for workouts (dressed in his Superman outfit, of course).

Josey (pictured with his mother Rivera before her death) often asks ‘why’ his mother died, Dorsey has revealed

Naya Rivera’s son Josey was just 4 years old when his mother drowned on a boating trip they had taken together at Lake Piru in LA. Now 7 and living with his father Ryan Dorsey (pictured), Josey has been described as ‘strong’ and ‘resilient’ but Dorsey has revealed he misses his mother and often asks ‘why’ she died

Since dedicated father Dorsey took custody of his son, he has candidly posted about the difficulties of raising a little boy who no longer has his mother.

When Rivera died suddenly in 2020, Josey’s family rallied around to take care of the then-four-year-old, including Dorsey, the grandparents and Rivera’s sister Nickayla.

Naya’s sister Nickayla moved in with Ryan after the death in order to help him with his childcare responsibilities with Josey.

Although rumors quickly began to spread that Nickayla and Ryan were romantically involved, Ryan staunchly denied as much.

He revealed on social media that Nickayla moved in with him at Josey’s request, and that the little boy in fact wanted his aunt ‘to live with us forever.’

Ryan noted that Nickalya was ‘now the closest thing that [Josey] has to a mom’ and that ‘you’re gonna need all the help you can get as a single parent.’

As of January 2022,  Nickalya was still living with the father and son duo – although it is not currently known if she remains in the family household. 

A few months after Rivera drowned, TMZ reports Dorsey posted a long video on social media in which he revealed the heartbreaking conversations he had had with Josey, who was struggling to understand what had happened to his mother.

Dorsey said: ‘You tell him she’s an angel now and she’s with God and she’s in heaven, and he says ‘I wanna go there. How do I get there?’ 

‘I wouldn’t wish that upon any of your ears to have to hear that. To hear those words come out of the sweetest soul you know.’

As time has passed, Dorsey has kept fans updated with Josey’s interests and milestones, with the pair often taking fun trips out. 

Dorsey posted a series of photos of himself and Josey dressed in all their finery last summer when he graduated from kindergarten

Josey (pictured at the gym) has become his father’s workout buddy but also enjoys ice skating and basketball

Last year, the pair dressed up in their finery to celebrate the schoolboy’s graduation from kindergarten at school, with the father gushing about Josey’s achievements.

The Parks and Recreation star posted photos of himself cuddling his son on Instagram which were taken after the graduation ceremony. 

He wrote: ‘Can’t believe it but it’s officially [peace] out kindergarten!!!! My baby boy is really a big boy now on his way to 1st grade?!

‘I love you so much and you make me so proud to be your dad! Upward and onward to the next chapter my little man!!’

More recently, as Josey has settled into first grade, Ryan posted a series of photos and videos of his son singing Jingle Bells in the school’s winter performance.

Fans were quick to point out the similarities between the seven-year-old and his late mother, in both their looks and their talent.

One person wrote, ‘Naya would be so proud’ while another said, ‘He got a voice like his mamma (sic). Naya Rivera is looking down with a big smile on her face.’

Naya’s sister Nickayla moved in with Ryan after the death in order to help him with his childcare responsibilities with Josey. It is not known if she is still living with the father-son duo 

As well as taking an interest in performing arts, Dorsey has revealed his son is also into sports, including ice skating and basketball.

He has posted a series of photos of himself with Josey at the gym in the changing rooms, with little Josey posing for photos while wearing his Superman outfit.

Josey appears to be a fan of superheroes in general, as Dorsey revealed he dressed up as Spider-Man to celebrate Halloween last year. 

The dedicated father also revealed last year he had allowed Josey to get a pet dog – a golden doodle called Clifford. He joked that Josey had been adamant on the name, even though the pup was a girl.

While Dorsey often posts updates about himself and his son on their adventures, he also frequently speaks about Rivera and the mark she has left on both of them.

In particular, he uses Mothers Day to remember the late actress, from whom he was separated at the time of her death.

Last year, Dorsey posted a series of photos of Josey, then five, with his paternal grandmother, as well as earlier photos of his son with Rivera, and a final snap of Rivera’s gravestone at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, which he had visited that day.

In a brutally honest caption, he revealed how the cemetery was his ‘least favorite place in the world’ and admitted he still struggled to accept the reality of her death. 

He said: ‘I know how this day is going to go. Plenty of time for water works, but not now. I fight it and up I get.’

In January this year, he posted another tribute to Rivera on Instagram, revealing that Josey is still full of questions about what happened to his mother.

Posting photos on what would have been her 36th birthday of Rivera with Josey, Dorsey wrote: ‘A little easier with each little bit of time that passes by to look at pictures…but I still don’t have the answers to the questions to the why’s our sweet boy asks from time to time. I never will.

‘Doing the best we can. Fly high.’ 

A year after Rivera’s death, Dorsey paid tribute to the mother of his child in a post which revealed how Josey’s personality was developing as he got older.

In the post, which was written as a message to Rivera, he said: ‘Our boy has grown so much. 

‘He’s such an explorer, so inquisitive. He’s sweet, so funny, and his laugh always lights up the room. He’s an intuitive soul to say the least. 

‘To know him is to love him, everyone that meets him is always smiling. He’s doing ok. He’s such a resilient strong kid. 

‘He misses you but knows he’ll see you again, and the invisible string is something that’s helped us out during this ever-evolving transition of your time with us on earth that was unfairly and for reasons we’ll never understand cut short…too soon.’

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