Born Vickie Lynn Hogan on November 28, 1967, in Mexia, Texas, Anna Nicole Smith rose to fame as a model for Guess jeans and for Playboy magazine. She was even named Playboy’s Playmate of the Year in 1993. The curvy blonde has also appeared in a few films, such as Naked Gun 33 1/3 and The Hudsucker Proxy, both in 1994.
A high school dropout, Smith’s dramatic life began quietly in a small Texas town. She had a difficult childhood, growing up without her father who left the family. Smith married Billy Smith when she was only 17 years old. The couple had a son named Daniel in 1984, but the marriage later broke up. Not content with small-town life, Smith dreamed of becoming the next Marilyn Monroe.
Before her big break, Anna Nicole Smith worked numerous jobs, including as a waitress and later a dancer in a strip club. While working at a club in Houston, Smith met Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II. They married in 1994. At the time, she was 26 and he was 89. The marriage ended with Marshall’s death the following year. Smith spent years fighting his son, E. Pierce Marshall, in court over her husband’s estate. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006. The court’s decision opened the door to Anna Nicole Smith collecting some money from her late husband’s estate.
Despite her legal woes, Smith stayed in the spotlight. With her Marilyn Monroe-styled hair and Texas accent, she was a fixture in celebrity magazines and tabloids. In 2002, television viewers got inside look at the life of this wacky, quirky celebrity with a new series. The Anna Nicole Show, a reality program, followed her through her daily activities. At times, the show was difficult to watch as Smith seemed disoriented or confused, but the audience continued to tune in to see what Smith might do or say next. She was often shown in the company of Howard K. Stern, her attorney. While the show went off the air in 2004, Anna Nicole Smith remained popular with the American public.
Having struggled with her weight on and off for years, Anna Nicole Smith became a spokesperson for a line of diet products. She lost a significant amount of weight and returned to acting with a starring role in 2006’s science fiction-comedy Illegal Aliens. Her son Daniel also worked on the project with her.
While her professional life appeared to be on the rise, Anna Nicole Smith experienced both joy and tragedy in her personal life. She announced that she was pregnant during the summer of 2006 and gave birth to a daughter on September 7 at a hospital in Nassau, Bahamas. She named her child Dannielynn, and was thrilled to be a mother again. But her happiness was short-lived. Her 20-year-old son Daniel died only three days later from an apparent drug overdose. Later reports indicated that the interaction of methadone and two different types of antidepressants may have caused his death. Anna Nicole Smith never truly recovered from the loss.
Smith found herself in the middle of media frenzy with reports on her son’s death appearing on entertainment news programs on an almost daily basis. She also became embroiled in a paternity lawsuit regarding her daughter. Her ex-boyfriend, photographer Larry Birkhead, claimed to be Dannielynn’s father. Smith stated that her attorney, Howard K. Stern, was the child’s father, and he is listed on the child’s birth certificate. In the midst of all this heartbreak and legal battles, Smith and Stern held a small commitment ceremony, after which they ate fried chicken and drank champagne. While the event symbolized their devotion to each other, it was not legally binding.
Anna Nicole Smith died on February 8, 2007, at the age of 39, after being found unconscious in her hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Authorities announced several weeks afterward that the cause of death was an accidental drug overdose. Smith had been taking nine different kinds of medication in the days before her death.
After her death in February 2007, there was much speculation regarding the paternity of her daughter, including one claim made by Prince Frederick von Anhalt, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband. He told the Associated Press that he had an affair with Anna Nicole Smith and believed that he was Dannielynn’s father. In April 2007, it was determined by DNA test results that Larry Birkhead was the biological father of Dannielynn. Howard K. Stern did not contest this ruling and legal custody was granted to Birkhead.
In death as in life, Anna Nicole Smith made headlines around the world. As a tribute, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner told the press at the time: “She was a very dear friend who meant a great deal to Playboy and to me personally.”
While ridiculed by some for her spacey persona, Smith was also admired for her rise to success despite so many personal obstacles. Perhaps the quintessential underdog, Smith had lots of fans rooting for her to overcome the recent tragedies. Unfortunately, that was not to be. After her death, she has been compared to many of Hollywood’s beautiful women who died too young, including Jean Harlow and Anna Nicole Smith’s personal favorite, Marilyn Monroe.