It’s been a little over a year since Vanessa Hudgens’ father passed away from stage 4 cancer. The heartbreaking loss occurred just hours before she was set to perform in Grease Live — and, in an amazing display of resilience and strength, she took the stage anyway. "I do the show in his honor,” Hudgens explained that night.
The 28-year-old actress and singer lost her father way too soon — but she keeps his memory alive by talking to him every single day. Hudgens also strives to live her life to the fullest, just like her dad would want.
“I talk to him constantly,” Hudgens told PEOPLE. “I just continued to do what I love. He was such a supporter of allowing me to continue to follow my dreams without him driving me to L.A. for auditions all the time. I would not have been possible.”
She also honors her dad through her work because, as she said, he was her biggest cheerleader as she worked tirelessly to “make it” in show biz.
“[I] just to continue doing what I love and to keep doing it in his name,” Hudgens added. “Without him I obviously would not be here, in many ways.”
Hudgens says she’ll never forget the look on her dad’s face when he watched her perform.
“He was always the strong silent type and whenever he would see my work he would get very emotional. I just always have that image of him — the proud look that he got in his face when he saw me doing what I loved,” she continued. “I know he’s up there looking down with that same look on his face.”
The death of a parent is always painful — but it’s especially heartbreaking to lose your mom or dad at such an early age. Hudgens has some advice for young women and men who are in a similar situation:
“Just continue to live your life. I think that’s what our parents want for us,” she said. “They want us to have our best life possible and to not drown in the sorrow of it.”