“I can’t say that I’m strong every day,” she shared with PEOPLE in the cover story for this week’s Women Changing the World issue. “I can’t say that there aren’t days when I feel like I can’t survive to the next.”
And while the world publicly mourned the NBA legend and “Gigi,” who took off after her father when it came to a talent for basketball, Vanessa, 38, attempted to rebuild a life for herself and their family: Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and 20-month-old Capri.
She spearheaded creative projects left unfinished at Granity Studios, Kobe’s multi-media company she now operates
Most recently, Vanessa relaunched Kobe’s charitable non-profit as Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, honoring fathers and daughters, to help empower young girls and provide equal opportunities to underserved athletes.
Amid the devastating loss, Vanessa navigated her emotions while also being present and available for her daughters.
“This pain is unimaginable [but] you just have to get up and push forward,” she says. “Lying in bed crying isn’t going to change the fact that my family will never be the same again. But getting out of bed and pushing forward is going to make the day better for my girls and for me. So that’s what I do.”
In an attempt to see the light despite being surrounded by darkness, Vanessa finds her source of strength from Kobe and Gigi.
“I guess the best way to describe it is that Kobe and Gigi motivate me to keep going,” she says. “They inspire me to try harder and be better every day. Their love is unconditional and they motivate me in so many different ways.”
In addition, of course, her girls Natalia, Bianka and Capri, give her life, love and support: “My girls help me smile through the pain,” she says. “They give me strength.”
At the end of the day Vanessa wants “to make Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka and Capri proud.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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