“She played that character on camera and off camera,” the California native, 35, recalls of her late friend, who she thinks about “every single day,” during the iHeart Jingle Ball red carpet in Los Angeles on December 2. “I mean she had that little bite and that little sassiness to her, but it was never too much. And it was always … the right kind of friend.”
Heather notes that she takes the “lessons” she learned from Naya “every day,” including how to “say things out loud that were hard to say.”
The professional dancer adds that she “learned” how to have tough conversations with “grace and kindness” from Naya days after opening up about the Step Up actress confronting her about her eating disorder while they were working together.
“I had developed an eating disorder. I stopped getting my period. I was so in my head about food and what it was doing for me,” Heather said during the “And That’s What You REALLY Missed” podcast’s December 2 episode.
Heather noted that Naya was very “open” about her own struggles with an eating disorder, adding she “of course, was the first to speak up about it.”
At the time, Heather revealed she initially brushed off the conversation but always appreciated the gesture. “That’s who she was. She was just always ready to talk about it,” the Spring Breakers actress explained. “We’re all like that now. It just takes that time and place in your life where you’re like, ‘Life’s too short.’”
Naya died on July 8, 2020, after she went missing in Lake Piru, located in Ventura County, California, while boating with her son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, whom she shared with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey. She was 33.
The mother and son spent a day out on the water, but he was later found alone in their rented boat. At the time, a source told In Touch her “devastated” family felt like they were “living in a bad dream.”
In November, Josey, 7, sued several Ventura County departments for wrongful death through his father, 39, and Naya’s estate. The lawsuit, which claims the actress’ death was preventable, was filed in Ventura County Superior Court on November 17, against the County of Ventura, Ventura County Parks and Recreation Management and United Water Conservation District for wrongful death and negligent emotional distress.
The Glee Encore star’s estate alleged the pontoon boat, which she rented from the county’s Parks and Recreation Management hours before her death, was “grossly underequipped,” according to documents obtained by In Touch.
Lawyers Amjad M. Khan and Jackie K. M. Levien claimed the vessel lacked a “safely accessible ladder, adequate rope, an anchor, a radio or any security mechanisms to prevent swimmers from being separated from their boats.”
The docs further alleged that “the boat was not even equipped with any flotation or lifesaving devices, in direct violation of California law, which requires that all pontoons longer than 16 feet be equipped with flotation devices.”
Reporting by Jessica Stopper