Vanessa Bryant has always retained a relatively low profile but in the wake of the tragic and untimely death of her husband, legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant, and 13-year-old daughter Gianna mourners around the world have her and their three daughters on their mind. After the news that Kobe, Gianna (Gigi) and seven other passengers died in a helicopter crash early Sunday morning, news outlets not only memorialized Kobe’s storied career playing for the Lakers but they also shone a spotlight on his devotion to his family. Reportedly they promised to never fly a helicopter together, which seems especially heartbreaking now but also shows how they put family first. Read on to learn about Vanessa, 37, who was his partner of 20 years and mother of their four daughters.
Vanessa is of Mexican descent.
View this post on Instagram
Tonight we pray for the mama who didn’t know she could be this strong. Lord, she doesn’t know how she will push through for her other children, but she knows her strength comes from You. She might have thought she was strong before, but the strength she will have to show now will require your help. Lord, it’s just all so much, for any mama to imagine—receiving the dreaded phone call no one would ever want to receive. Tonight we ask You to help her. Lord, surround her with comfort and give her strength and remind her she doesn’t have to do it alone—You are beside her. You are there with her. You see her. Lift off the heaviness. Hold back the fear. Blow away all the tears and pull her near. All mamas lift up Vanessa Bryant tonight, and we ask this in Jesus’s name, Amen. 🙏 #kobe #blackmamba #gianna #vanessabryant #pray #8 #24 #mom #mother #woman #women #womenempowerment #womensupportingwomen #amen #girldad #mambaout
Vanessa Cornejo Urbieta Laine was born on May 5, 1982 and his family reportedly didn’t support their relationship partly because she wasn’t African American. She grew up in Orange County and attended Marina High School in Huntington Beach. Correction: Though there have been reports she’s half Irish, both her parents are Mexican and she took on the last name Laine in honor of her stepfather.
She and Kobe got married when she was 18 in 2001.
He began courting her while she was still in high school garnering so much attention she had to finish her senior year in independent study. They married in April 2001 at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, California, and his family reportedly didn’t support their marriage and they became estranged. According to the Los Angeles Times, his father Joe was uncomfortable with her being Latina and not African American.
Vanessa stood by him when he was accused of rape.
In 2003, six months after she gave birth to their first daughter Natalia Diamante, Kobe was accused of raping g a 19-year-old Colorado hotel worker. He claimed innocence saying it was consensual and though he’d cheated on her she stood by his side. During the press conference he said he was “disgusted at myself for making (the) mistake of adultery,” adding, “I love my wife with all my heart. She’s my backbone.” He also famously gifted her an 8-carat, $4 million purple ring though there are some reports he’d already purchased it before the incident. The case was settled in 2005.
She suffered a miscarriage after the case.
Kobe blamed himself for the miscarriage: “The reality is it happened because of me. That’s something I have to deal with,” he said in a 2015 Showtime documentary. They welcomed daughter Gianna Maria-Onore in May 2006.
She filed for divorce in 2011 and they reconciled in 2013.
“We are pleased to announce that we have reconciled,” Vanessa Bryant said on social media at the time. “Our divorce action will be dismissed. We are looking forward to our future together.” They welcomed daughter Bianka Bella in Dec. 2016 followed by daughter Capri Kobe in June 2019.
She’s part of the reason why Kobe knew how to speak Spanish.
He reportedly learned Spanish to communicate better with his mother-in-law and learned by watching novelas and Sábado Gigante with her. He would often post on Instagram on Vanessa’s birthday (Cinco de Mayo) writing a message in Spanish or Italian (he grew up in Italy) and he was able to give interviews speaking fluent Spanish.