“I love talking about my dad,” says Natalia Bryant. “It’s bittersweet, but I enjoy talking about him more than it’s sad for me.”
Natalia, the eldest daughter of late NBA legend Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Laine Bryant, is Teen Vogue’s September cover star, her first major photo shoot and profile since recently signing with IMG Models. Not that the 18-year-old will likely be embarking on a full-time modeling career anytime soon; she also recently began her freshman year at the University of Southern California, where she plans to major in film. It’s a medium she and her father shared a love of, Kobe notably becoming the first NBA player to win an Academy Award in 2018 for the animated short film Dear Basketball.
Known as “Nani” to her close-knit family, Natalia speaks openly about her upbringing, which was, by her account, equal parts privileged and down-to-earth.
“Growing up,” she tells Teen Vogue, “my parents made it as normal as possible. Thank God they did. It’s not, Oh she’s Natalia Bryant, she’s Kobe Bryant’s daughter. A lot of times they saw me as She’s just Nani.”
She’s also finding footing in her “Blaxican” heritage. “I’m biracial,” she says. “When I was younger, I didn’t really understand…how I’m both. As I got older, I was able to understand.”
Of course, Natalia’s heritage also includes being the daughter of one the most revered athletes in history. While she was never inclined toward basketball like younger sister Gianna, Natalia had considered continuing her high school volleyball career as a player for USC. following the tragic deaths of her father and “Gigi” in January of 2020, she instead opted “to take a break from it.”
“I love the sport,” she says. “I quit volleyball after the accident because I was so...a lot was going on at that time. I knew I didn’t...love volleyball as much as they love basketball. I’m okay with that.”
Instead, she’s recently leaned into another longtime love, modeling. More from Teen Vogue:
Modeling is something Natalia has wanted to do for a while. She showed interest during one of those trips with her mom to New York’s Bergdorf Goodman store. Natalia saw a Chanel runway show on a screen and said, “I want to do that.” Her mother, supportive but practical, advised her to take her time. “For my mom, it was really important for me to go through high school and get my education. Especially complete college too.”
She’s also finding her voice, calling herself “an outgoing introvert” and explaining: “I love talking to people...but part of me is such a homebody.”
“One time this person was TikToking me or something,” she tells the magazine. “I was talking. And [after], I was going through comments, which everyone does. Someone commented, ‘this is the first time I ever heard your voice.’ I never even realized that. You always see a face, but it’s hard to…think of a voice behind that face.”
As Natalia makes her way forward with her mother and two young sisters remaining closely by her side, she is candid about how the now truncated family unit continues to process the losses of Kobe and Gigi.
“You do the best that you can,” she says. “[For] my little sisters [we’re] trying to keep that memory for them. And also just trying to remember to live out every day the way they would.”
Teen Vogue’s full interview with September cover star Natalia Bryant is available now.