As the world mourns the untimely passing of Bryant, Gigi, and the seven other victims on board, Vanessa is processing the loss of a husband, daughter, and numerous close friends. On January 29, Vanessa changed her Instagram profile picture to a photo of Kobe and Gianna, her first public move since the devastating crash.
While Vanessa and Kobe’s relationship with his parents, Pamela Cox Bryant and Joe Bryant remained icy prior to his untimely death, she has the support of her mother, Sofia Laine, and her big sister, Sophie Laine.
Vanessa and her older sister were mostly raised by a single mom. Vanessa was just three years old, and Sophie, 13, when her mother divorced her biological father. However, in 1990, Sofia remarried to Stephen Laine, and even though he never officially adopted Vanessa and Sophie, they legally changed their last name to match that of their stepfather.
Here’s what you need to know about Sophie Laine:
1. Kobe’s Sisters Sharia & Shaya Did Not Attend His Wedding To Vanessa, But Sophie Was Present
When Vanessa became engaged to Kobe, who was 21 at the time, she was still a senior in high school, and much like Kobe’s parents, Laine had his own apprehensions. “He was an adult and she was only 17,” Laine told the Daily Press. However, unlike Kobe’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Laine attended her daughter’s wedding to the NBA superstar in April 2001, which took place in Dana Point, California, as did her big sister.
According to an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Joe and Pam Bryant had a hard time with the fact their son was marrying so young, without a prenuptial agreement, and that Vanessa was a Latina woman instead of an African American woman.
After the wedding, the Bryants moved from their home in Pacific Palisades to the Newport Coast to be closer to Vanessa’s family.
2. During Kobe’s Rape Trial, Vanessa & Sophie’s Parents Went Through a Nasty Divorce
After nearly 13 years of marriage, Vanessa and Sophie’s mother and stepfather split. It was a tumultuous time in Vanessa’s life as Kobe was going through his very public rape trial in 2003. Their mother Sofia Laine continued to have her daughter’s back. She told reporters “We keep to ourselves, and those who want to talk can talk,” said Sofia Laine. “The people who say negative things, God will take care of them.”
When Vanessa and Kobe were headed toward divorce in 2011, her ex-stepfather had some choice words for his now-estranged stepdaughter. Laine told TMZ, “Her mother taught her well to wait for the 10-year mark [before divorcing]. In California, it’s considered a long term marriage and then she gets paid for life or until she remarries… just like her mother is doing to me. I have to pay her mom $1,800 every month and clearly, they don’t need it” – referring to how rich Vanessa and her mother would be if the divorce with Kobe proceeded.
Laine, who has since started a new family said, “I have a six-year-old daughter and that money could be used toward her college fund or something… you’d think she’d care… but no, she’s spiteful.”
3. Sophie Does Not Have Social Media But Regularly Stars In Vanessa’s Instagram Posts
Vanessa has been singing her big sister’s praises throughout her life. While Sophie does not have any social media accounts, and little is known about her own family, Vanessa sends a shout out to her on every birthday, and continuously thanks her for being such a great aunt to her daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Sophie attended numerous Lakers games with Vanessa to cheer on Kobe and attended all of her niece’s birthday parties.
4. Vanessa Reconciled With Sharia & Shaya, She Considers Them ‘Sisters’ Of Her Own
While the relationship between the Bryants and his parents never fully recovered following a lawsuit in 2013, in which Pam and Joe Bryant were caught trying to sell their son’s memorabilia behind his back, the couple did mend fences with his sisters. Even though the NBA star decided to cut off both Sharia and Shaya financially, the siblings remained close.
“They’re very smart, college-educated [women],” Kobe said of Shaya and Sharia. “I’m really proud of them. They were able to get their own jobs, get their own lives, take care of themselves. Now they have a better sense of self, of who they are as people, instead of being resentful because they were relying on me.”
Sophie attended Kobe Byrant’s jersey retirement ceremony in 2017, and while Vanessa remains incredibly tight with her big sister, she continues to refer to both of Kobe’s siblings as “sisters” and they’re all included in her children’s lives. Kobe and Vanessa also shared a tight relationship with their numerous nieces and nephews.
5. Sophie’s Sons Look Very Similar To Their Aunt Vanessa
While Aunt Vanessa refers to her nephew Kristian as her “fraternal twin” as a joke on Instagram, there’s obviously a strong resemblance between her and both of Sophie’s sons, Kristian and Justin. Vanessa shares a close relationship with her nephews. Kristian has traveled with his Aunt to Paris and both have sat courtside at many of Kobe’s games.
Kristian also spent quality time with Gianna, along with the rest of his cousins and extended family.