Vanessa Bryant experienced a terrible tragedy this year, with the loss of her husband Kobe Bryant and their 14-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant. Both died in a tragic helicopter crash on January 26. While we can’t imagine it has been easy for the mother of four to grieve while maintaining a brave public face, she’s been the epitome of grace these past few months.
Today (May 5) is Vanessa’s 38th birthday, and we think it’s time to focus on the joyous moments of her life. In honor of Vanessa’s big day, here’s a look back at her spectacular life in photos.
Vanessa and Kobe first met on the set of a music video in 1999. Kobe was filming a music video during his budding career as a rapper. He said in the 2015 Showtime documentary Kobe Bryant’s Muse, “It was a two-day video shoot, and I was always looking for her, like I wanted to know where she was. I would finish a take and go to my trailer but I would wonder where she was the entire time. Then I would come out of the trailer and just wanted to talk to her some more, in between takes and stuff like that.”
Two years later they were married. See Kobe describing meeting Vanessa Bryant in the clip below:
Here is an image from their first date:
In June of 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers won their third consecutive NBA championship. Vanessa was right by her husband’s side as Kobe waved to fans during a parade through downtown Los Angeles.
By January 2003, they had their first child Natalia Diamante Bryant. See the photo below of little Natalia at 2 years old.
In May of 2006, their second child, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant was born. This adorable pic was when Gianna was just a toddler.
This throwback photo shows Vanessa celebrating her 25th birthday with Kobe in 2007.
A precious moment of Vanessa and Kobe Bryant watching Natalia selling Girl Scout Cookies to former President Barack Obama in 2010.
A classic photo from 2011 of Kobe, Vanessa and their daughters Natalia and Gianna attending his hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Kobe Bryant officially retired from the NBA in April of 2016. He seemed happy to be spending more time with family and wrote on Instagram on their 15th wedding anniversary, “Just finished celebrating my 20 year career. It's a blessing to now celebrate 15 years of marriage today! I love you mama per sempre #15yranniversary.” See the beautiful photo below with Kobe and Vanessa surrounded by roses.
By December of 2016, Bianka Bella Bryant was born. See the video of their one-year-old laughing every time Vanessa says her daddy’s name.
In 2018, Kobe Bryant won an Academy Award for the Best Animated Short Film for his film, Dear Basketball. It’s a proud moment Vanessa is surely to remember forever.
On April 18, 2019, Kobe Bryant posted about his 18th wedding anniversary, writing a simple, but heartfelt message on Instagram saying, “Happy 18th Wedding Anniversary baby! Ti Amo per Sempre.”
Their fourth daughter, Capri Kobe Bryant, was born on June 20, 2019, which makes her just 11 months old today.
Through all the pain, Vanessa has been able to find joy in the memories of her late daughter Gianna, as well as the growth of her other children. See the beautiful way Vanessa commemorated Gianna’s 14th birthday (May 1), as well as the silly fun she’s having with her girls now:
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Gianna loved to wear a red bow in all of her school pictures. Red means love and life. To commemorate Gigi’s birthday today, please consider wearing red, caption an act of kindness or show how you will play Gigi’s way since she always gave everything she did her all and led with kindness. ❤️Please use the hashtag #PlayGigisWay ❤️Thank you. 5-1-06 Mambacita (We are in the process of making this bracelet available for proceeds to benefit our Mamba and Mambacita foundation. I will update you with a post when we have them available for purchase).
Photo: Mark Sagliocco / Contributor (Photo by LEE CELANO/AFP via Getty Images