Vanessa Bryant's Transformation Is Really A Head-Turning Sight

Vanessa Bryant first burst onto the scene when she began dating NBA legend Kobe Bryant. But even as she was launched into the spotlight for being romantically linked to such a talented and famous athlete, she preferred to remain out of the public eye.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Vanessa never boasted about her relationship with the celebrated athlete nor did she ever use her relationship with Kobe as a means to get ahead in school. And it appears that Vanessa maintained those same ideals regarding her privacy throughout her entire life. During a since-deleted 2012 interview with FabFitFun (via Complex), Bryant quickly shot down any rumors of her participating in a reality show. "Absolutely 100% no. Kobe and I were approached to do a reality show after Nick and Jessica started Newlyweds, then they wanted my friend La La and I to do one, years ago," Vanessa confessed. "I really enjoy my privacy and I love being my goofy and sarcastic self with family and friends. I certainly don't want to enable people to think they have a significant opinion on what goes on in my life." 

But, while she mostly flew under the public's radar, we were able to uncover a few nuggets about the fascinating life and transformation of the beautiful Vanessa Bryant. Keep reading after the jump to learn all there is to know about the wife of the late basketball pro. 

Vanessa Bryant did not grow up with a silver spoon

Vanessa Bryant's life with the late Kobe Bryant brought immense wealth, but make no mistake about it — while growing up, things were quite different for the professional athlete's wife.

Vanessa was raised by a single mother, Sofia, after her parents divorced when she was very young. Her father quickly moved to Baja, Mexico and her mother was frequently gone in an effort to make ends meet. During that time, Vanessa's mother worked as a shipping clerk as they lived with Sofia's sister. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, however, her mother eventually remarried and Vanessa changed her last name to that of her stepfather, Laine, dropping her biological father's last name, Cornejo. 

During an interview with FabFitFun (via Lipstick Alley), Vanessa praised her mother "for being an independent single mother and sole provider" and teaching her "to be a person of substance and character."

Vanessa Bryant was in high school when she met Kobe Bryant

Vanessa Bryant was only 17 years old when she met Kobe Bryant for the first time. Kobe was 20. The couple first met on the set of a music video during a time when the athlete briefly tried his hand at a rapping career. According to Kobe, it was essentially love at first sight the moment he laid eyes on Vanessa. "I would come out of the trailer and just wanted to talk to her some more, in between takes and stuff like that," Kobe confessed in a documentary, The Muse (via People).

Kobe eventually worked up the courage to ask Vanessa for her number and the rest is history. Kobe revealed that many of their dates during the beginning actually took place at the most magical place on earth — Disneyland. And while he knew Vanessa was beautiful, he was adamant that what he had with Vanessa went much further than physical attraction. "She was just beautiful. We literally did everything together ... she became my best friend," he said. He continued on, stating that they both "[saw] the world the same way."

Vanessa Bryant worked as a model

While Kobe Bryant was known for his brief stint as a rapper, Vanessa also had a career that she dabbled in: modeling. As you will recall, Kobe and Vanessa met on the set of a music video — one in which Vanessa was the star. But how did she initially get into modeling? 

Per the Los Angeles Times, the story goes that, while attending a hip hop concert at Irvine Meadows Amphitheater in August 1999, a man with a video camera approached her and explained that he was looking for girls to star in music videos. Bryant obliged and gave the man her number and soon after she was called to come to the shoot. 

As it turns out, that job was just one of many for Vanessa. She quickly booked more modeling gigs, but she was always under the watchful eye of her protective mother. She even starred in music videos for rappers Snoop Dogg and Krazy Bone. Pretty impressive!

Vanessa Bryant did not get along with her in-laws

Soon after meeting Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant knew that she was the one for him. During the 2015 documentary The Muse (via People), Kobe discussed their whirlwind courtship and subsequent marriage. "We decided to get married, I proposed and she said yes." And while they both were well aware they were very young — Vanessa was only 18 — it did not seem to bother either of them the slightest bit. 

There was only one pesky, little problem. Kobe's parents were not here for it. And Vanessa's stepdad was not too keen on the idea either, per the Los Angeles Times. Alas, the couple went on to tie the knot on April 18, 2001, anyway (via NBC). It was also reported by The Orlando Sentinel that Kobe's father was not pleased by Kobe's selection of a bride, simply due to the color of her skin. During an interview with the publication, Kobe reportedly acknowledged that his father was not happy that Vanessa was Latina, and not African-American.

Vanessa Bryant has always been a devoted mother

Not too long after tying the knot, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant leapt into parenting and quickly got to work expanding their family. Vanessa gave birth to their first daughter, Natalia, in 2003 and Vanessa took on her new role as a stay-at-home mother with zest. She even opted to forego a nanny (or seven) even though the couple most certainly could have employed one. Instead, she preferred to do everything herself. 

A source told People that, even with such immense wealth, both Vanessa and Kobe were adamant about raising their children to be down-to-earth and instilling work ethic and the importance of giving back. "A lot of families have parents that constantly work and kids that are being raised by nannies. The Bryants have always been different. The focus on family has always been a priority. Vanessa is a stay-at-home mom and after Kobe stopped playing basketball, the main focus has been about raising their daughters," the source revealed.

Vanessa Bryant was also a very devoted wife to Kobe Bryant

Vanessa Bryant was also a devoted wife — even when times got really tough. As you may recall, Kobe Bryant found himself in hot water when a young woman came forth and accused the professional athlete of raping her at a Colorado resort. Per the Daily Beast, however, Kobe was adamant that he believed the encounter was purely consensual. During a very tearful apology, Kobe apologized to both his accuser and his wife for his infidelity. Eventually the young woman in question dropped the case in 2004.

Vanessa, continued to stand by her man, maintaining that he was innocent of assault, but she did acknowledge his "mistake of adultery," per NZ Herald. "He and I will have to deal with that within our marriage, and we will do so. He is not a criminal," Vanessa declared publicly.

And it appears the couple did just that. It was not too long after the incident that Vanessa was caught sporting an eight carat purple diamond ring to the tune of $4 million large, as reported by People. The couple, however, denied that the ring was used as an "apology," but rather a gift Kobe already had in the works for his wife before his high-profile scandal.

In 2011, the couple hit yet another rough patch when Vanessa filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences, per ESPN. Fortunately, the couple did reconcile soon after the filing. 

Vanessa Bryant has dealt with unimaginable heartbreak and pain

Unfortunately, in early January 2020, tragedy would strike the Bryant family. And Vanessa Bryant was left to pick up the pieces and soldier on. Both Kobe Bryant and their daughter, Gigi Bryant, were tragically killed in a helicopter crash transporting them and seven other passengers to one of Gigi's basketball games. As one can imagine, losing both your husband and child came with extreme pain and sadness. During a speech Vanessa gave at the public memorial for both Kobe and Gigi, Vanessa spoke about them and the joy they brought to her life, per CNN

While remembering Gigi and Kobe, Vanessa celebrated her "sweet" and "smart" daughter. "I miss you, all of you, every day," Vanessa declared before adding, "I love you." She also recalled her "amazing love story" with Kobe. "We loved each other with our whole beings, two perfectly imperfect people raising a beautiful family and our sweet and amazing girls." 

Yet, while Vanessa never expected to become a widow at age 37, she will likely use her latest chapter to fuel the next stage of her amazing transformation.