Being the wife of one of the most iconic men in sports history certainly comes with a lot of attention. Vanessa Laine Bryant has, however, handled it with grace and style. She is a social media star, model, and the wife of the late multiple award-winning NBA legend, Kobe Bryant.
Kobe and Vanessa were together for so long that it is almost impossible to think there was a time when she was independent of the basketball legend. But there was, regardless of how short that life may have been.
Vanessa Laine Met Kobe Bryant Through Her Work as a Model and Dancer
Vanessa Laine Bryant was born in Los Angeles, California on May 5, 1982. She was raised by just her mother, Sofia Urbieta, alongside her older sister, Sophie. The young girl attended and graduated from Marina High School in Huntington, California.
While in high school, Vanessa worked as a music video model and backup dancer. She began doing so just before her senior year in high school after an influential figure spotted her at a concert and asked her to appear in a music video. Her first video was “G’d Up” by the Tha Eastsidaz which featured rapper Snoop Dogg.
The second time Vanessa landed a role in a music video was when she got to meet Kobe Bryant. The late basketball player asked for her number as he has admitted that he immediately fell in love with her. As a result of their relationship, Vanessa’s world inadvertently changed. Not only did it bring an end to her short modeling career, but she lost her privacy. The media and paparazzi trailed her to learn more about the woman who had captured the rising NBA superstar’s heart. Her classmates also wanted to know every detail about the affair.
Their Relationship Caused Her to Drop Out of School
Not only did Vanessa Laine and Kobe Bryant’s love story end her budding modeling career, but it also ended her high school experience. Unable to keep up with the attention, she left high school and completed the rest of her education as a homeschooled student.
This was just the tip of the iceberg of Vanessa’s early life with Kobe. Six months after they started dating, after weeks of making appearances at his games and on red carpets, Kobe proposed to her at her 18th birthday party. But while the rest of the world was in love with the latest Hollywood couple, Kobe’s parents were not and so they were estranged for a while.
Less than two years after they met, Vanessa and Kobe got married at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church. The wedding had only twelve people in attendance, for reasons not entirely out of intimacy and privacy. Kobe’s parents and sisters refused to show up out of disapproval for his early marriage and his wife’s non-African American ethnicity. His Lakers’ teammates were also noticeably absent.
Vanessa Laine and Kobe Bryant Welcomed Their First Daughter in 2003
The hostility between Kobe and his parents and sisters simmered down when Vanessa Laine gave birth to the couple’s first child, Natalie Diamante Bryant, on January 19, 2003. They would go on to welcome three more children over the years; Gianna Maria-Onore born on May 1, 2006, Bianka Bella Bryant on December 5, 2016, and Capri Kobe Bryant on June 20, 2019. Bianka was born shortly before the Lakers legend announced his retirement.
While it might seem like the couple had a straight road from meeting on the set of a music video to their wedding and having four children, their life together was anything but that.
A Sexual Assault Scandal in 2003 Almost Ended Their Marriage
In late June 2003, just a few months after the birth of the Bryants’ first child, a 19-year-old hotel staff in Denver, Colorado accused Kobe of sexual assault. The athlete was scheduled for a knee operation on July 2 and had checked into a hotel a few days earlier.
The lady alleged that Kobe raped her in his room while he maintained that what happened between them was consensual. After she filed a report to the police, Kobe was arrested and charged to court. His accuser would, however, later refuse to testify in court and the judge closed the case. The lady would go on to file a separate civil suit against the NBA player which they settled out of court.
Throughout the scandal, Vanessa Laine Bryant stood by her husband’s side. The image of her holding his hand during the now-infamous press conference went viral. It went as far as receiving a mocking nod from the satire show, Saturday Night Live.
Although it was unknown at the time, Vanessa was said to have been pregnant again. Unfortunately, the stress of the scandal led to a miscarriage. In the months after the scandal, Kobe worked to repair his marriage by buying his wife a $4 million 8-karat purple diamond ring. He also got a tattoo of her name on his right biceps, with angel wings underneath.
Vanessa filed for Divorce in 2011 But Did Not Go Through with It
Vanessa Laine and Kobe Bryant’s marriage was back on the chopping block again in December 2011 when she filed for a divorce. She filed the documents, after ten years of being together, at the Orange County Superior Court citing “irreconcilable differences”.
During the process of their divorce, the couple filed for joint custody of their then two daughters. But after two years of negotiations and attempts at reconciliation, Kobe and Vanessa were back together. The two of them announced the decision on social media. Following the reconciliation, they welcomed their last two children; Bianka and Capri.
Vanessa Laine Bryant Lost Her Husband and Second Daughter in a Helicopter Crash in 2020
After Kobe Bryant retired from basketball in 2016, Vanessa released a statement about the exciting new direction for their family. Her husband’s family relationship deepened and his image as a family man grew. He began working with women’s sports, specifically with his daughter Gianna’s basketball career as a focal point. He coached her team and established the Mamba Sports Academy which offered and hosted various athletes from the NBA to the WNBA.
Sadly, on January 26, 2020, Vanessa suffered the loss of her husband and daughter after the helicopter they were traveling in crashed on their way to the Mamba training facility. The duo were two of nine victims in the crash.
Kobe Bryant was laid to rest at a private funeral at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach, California on February 7. A public memorial was held in his honor at the Staples Center on February 24, with Vanessa Laine Bryant and her three other daughters in attendance.
Vanessa Has Been An Active Philanthropist Since She Married Kobe
Having a husband who was among the highest-paid players in the NBA gave Vanessa Laine little incentive to work. Between that and raising their young family, her days of music video modeling were over. However, with a lot of cash to spare and a sense of giving back to a community of struggling children and families she was once part of, Vanessa became a philanthropist. She and her husband established the VIVO Foundation in 2007.
Under the foundation, she supported and encouraged young people to stay active via sports while providing them with financial and educational resources. In 2011, the couple expanded their philanthropic efforts by renaming their charity to Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. The charity’s goal now included countering homelessness and supporting homeless youths.
Aside from their charity efforts, Vanessa Laine and Kobe were prominent supporters of other charities, like Stand Up to Cancer and the Make A Wish Foundation. Since her husband passed, she has continued in the family’s philanthropic steps, notably supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.