In the wake of Kobe Bryant's passing, many fans are thinking about his grieving wife, Vanessa Laine Bryant. The two were together for over 20 years, and were married when they were young. Fans are sympathizing with Vanessa, who is adjusting to a whole new way of life.
NBA legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California. Bryant was flying from his family's home in Orange County to his gym, the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. He was with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, two of her teenage basketball teammates, their parents and another coach, along with the pilot.
The crash shocked fans all over the world, and had ripple effects all throughout pop culture. Bryant's impact on on the worlds of sports, entertainment and philanthropy could not be overstated, and many remarked on how much he had meant to them as a symbol of greatness and humility.
For his family, Bryant was a much more tangible presence that is now gone. More than two weeks after his passing, many are not turning their attention on Vanessa and her three daughters, who are trying to process an immense and shocking loss.
NBA fans have been witnessing Bryant and Vanessa's romance from a far for years, but for some their relationship is a bit more a mystery. Here's what you need to know about Bryant's widow, Vanessa Laine Bryant.
Vanessa was born Vanessa Cornejo Ubrieta on May 5, 1982. According to her Fandom bio, she was raised in Huntington Beach, California, by her mother Sofia Laine. Her father reportedly moved back to Mexico when she was young, leaving her with her mother and her sister Sophie, who is 10 years older than her. Sofia eventually got remarried to Robert Laine.
Vanessa attended Marina High School in Huntington Beach. It was during that time when she got into modeling, which introduced her to Bryant.
In the fall of 1999, Vanessa met Bryant while she was working as a background dancer in the music video for "G'd Up" by Tha Eastsidaz. Bryant was reportedly in the building to work on his own hip-hop album, which was ultimately never released. At the time, Vanessa was 17 and Bryant was 21 years old.
Vanessa and Bryant began dating soon after, and they drummed up serious media attention. Bryant was already a rising star in the NBA, while Vanessa still had several credits to complete before graduating high school.
Vanessa's relationship with Bryant put a strain on her education, especially since it drew media reporters to Marina High School. The school's administration banned Bryant from campus, and later prevented him from attending her prom or her graduation.
Eventually, Vanessa determined that she could not complete her education there. She transitioned to a home schooled independent study program and got her high school degree in 2000.
Bryant proposed to Vanessa in May of 2000, after just six months of dating. Vanessa's cousin, Laila Laine, told All Starz Hollywood at the time that there was no pre-nuptial agreement between them, in spite of Bryant's rising fame.
"She just came home one day and said something to the effect that Kobe didn't want a prenup... that he loved her too much," she said.
They got married in April of 2001 at the St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, by a priest that Vanessa and her mother had listened to years beforehand.
Bryant and Vanessa had their first child, Natalia, on Jan. 19, 2003. When they tried for another child, Vanessa reportedly suffered a miscarriage due to an ectopic pregnancy. Their second daughter, Gianna, was born on May 1, 2006.
Vanessa filed for divorce from Bryant in December of 2011. According to a report by The Los Angeles Times, she cited irreconcilable differences. However, in January of 2013 she and Bryant announced that they had decided against the divorce.
"We are pleased to announce that we have reconciled," Vanessa wrote on Instagram. "Our divorce action will be dismissed. We are looking forward to our future together."
After that, Vanessa had the couple's third daughter, Bianka in December of 2016. Their youngest, baby Capri, was born in June of 2019.
Vanessa has a well-documented love of all things Disney -- particularly Disneyland. Over the years, she has amassed a huge collection of Disney memorabilia, and she used it to liberally decorate the family home.
Bryant reportedly did the same with his collection of Star Wars collectibles. When Disney acquired the intellectual property rights to Star Wars in the last few years, one can only imagine how happy the Bryant household was.
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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️
At the time of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant and Gianna, many fans turned straight to Vanessa's Instagram for her reaction. At the time, her account was set to private, but she soon made it public so that fans could read her tributes to her late husband and daughter. Since then, Bryant has thanked fans for their compassion and shared some of her grief with the public.