Over a year after the world learned that basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others perished in a plane crash, Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow and Gianna’s mother, talked exclusively to PEOPLE about the loss and her experience with grief.
“I can’t say that I’m strong every day,” Bryant tells PEOPLE in the cover story for their 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.”
The former model was rarely in headlines throughout her famous husband’s career, however, in the year since his death, she has been outspoken about issues her husband and daughter cared deeply for. On top of raising her and Kobe’s daughters, Natalia (18), Bianka (4), and Capri (20 months), she has also taken the reins of creative projects left unfinished at Granity Studios, Kobe’s multi-media company which Vanessa now controls.
“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.”
The Mexican American has also relaunched Kobe’s charitable non-profit as Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, honoring the father-daughter duo, to help empower young girls and provide equal opportunities to underserved athletes, a vision Kobe long championed.
“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.”