Sofia raised Vanessa as a single mom after she divorced the future socialite's father when Vanessa was a baby. Sofia later married Stephen Laine, and Vanessa would go on to drop her birth father's name, Cornejo, and take her stepfather's last name.
While Kobe had a tumultuous relationship with his own parents, he remained close with his mother-in-law, Sofia, up until his sudden death in January.
Sofia Was A Very Protective MomVanessa's stepfather said that when he met Sofia Urbieta, she was a single mother to daughters Vanessa and Sophie and living in her sister's spare bedroom. Sofia, who worked as a shipping clerk at an electronics firm at the time, married Laine in 1990.
Vanessa lived a very sheltered life with her mom Sofia and stepdad, according to the Los Angeles Times as reported by the Daily Press. During a trip with friends to Magic Mountain when she was a teen, Vanessa reportedly had to call home every hour to check in. When a teenaged Vanessa caught the eye of an agent and landed a gig as a music video extra, her mom was always with her on-set as a chaperone.
The teen's fast relationship with Kobe, whom she met on a video shoot, was in stark contrast to how she was raised.
Days after Vanessa announced her engagement to Kobe at her 18th birthday party, her debt-ridden parents filed for bankruptcy because Sofia had been unemployed for two years.
"Here I am, going bankrupt, and my daughter's marrying Kobe Bryant," Stephen Laine told the Times.
She Went Through A Bitter DivorceSofia and Laine split in 2003 after 13 years of marriage.
At the time, court documents revealed that it was Sofia who filed for divorce, claiming that her husband was "involved in another relationship," per ESPN. While it was also reported that Kobe and Vanessa had helped her parents out with nearly $500,000 in cash and gifts following their bankruptcy, Sofia told the court she was no longer receiving financial help from her famous son-in-law.
Amid later speculation about trouble in Vanessa and Kobe's marriage, Sofia's ex-husband expressed bitterness about his own divorce.
"[Vanessa's] mother taught her well to wait for the 10-year mark [before divorcing]," Laine told TMZ in 2011.
"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."Laine added that he now had had a 6-year-old daughter and that the alimony money he was paying Sofia could be used toward his younger child's college fund.
"You'd think she'd care… but no, she's spiteful," he said of Sofia.
She Was Close To Her Son-In-Law While He Was Estranged From His ParentsUnlike Kobe's parents, Joe and Pam Bryant, Sofia happily attended her daughter's 2001 wedding to the Lakers star.
Sofia supported Kobe when he announced his retirement from the NBA. Vanessa's mom was photographed giving her famous son-in-law a hug following the November 2015 press conference in which he announced he would be retiring from the Lakers after the 2015-16 season.
More recently, Sofia spent Thanksgiving with Kobe, Vanessa, and her granddaughters in what would be Kobe's last celebration of the holiday last November. Both Kobe and Vanessa shared the sweet family photo with Sofia at their dinner table.
She Has Been Vanessa's 'Rock' Following The Deaths Of Kobe & GiannaAn insider told Us Weekly that Sofia has been by her daughter's side following the deaths of Kobe and Gianna in a January 26 helicopter crash. The source said Vanessa "is incredibly close to her mom and her mom has been her rock" throughout the aftermath of the tragedy.
"Her mom is always with her and the girls [Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 8 months] and she's been keeping Vanessa strong and she's the weight of her support system," the Us insider said.
"Vanessa takes solace in the support of her mom and her sister [Sophie Laine], who are committed to seeing her through this."