Anna Nicole Smith’s life was a classic “rags-to-riches” Hollywood fable mixed with a creepy Marilyn Monroe obsession that ended in absolute tragedy. A simple country girl from Houston, Texas, Anna worked her way up from poverty to a playmate and became America’s blonde and perky sweetheart.
Sadly, Anna’s innocence got the best of her, and the industry wrecked and ridiculed her in so many ways. But maybe that’s what you get for obsessing over fame and money without stopping to second guess your actions. In any case, nobody deserved to go as she did.
From an American icon to an American tragedy, here’s her story.
Before becoming Hollywood’s seductress, Anna Nicole Smith was a brown-haired country girl named Vickie Lynn Hogan. She was born on November 28, 1967, in Houston, Texas, to a 16-year-old mom and a dad who disappeared shortly after her birth. Clearly, not the best starting point in life.
To make matters worse, the extreme differences between her parents were terribly confusing. Although she never met her dad, she knew he was a convicted felon who was charged for the hideous crime of rape. But her mom, on the other hand, worked in law enforcement as a sheriff’s deputy. How does a little girl make sense of all that?
When Smith was four, her mom remarried, and the family welcomed a new stepdad, Donald R. Hart. This was her mom’s third marriage, and Anna had four half-siblings to share the house with. A crowded upbringing for a little girl in desperate need of attention.
Anna didn’t make things easy for her mom. She hated school and even got into some brutal fights with her classmates. Eventually, her mom decided to send the unruly teenager to live with her aunt in the sleepy town of Mexia, hoping that might calm her down.
Smith took the move to Mexia as the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself. She changed her name from Vickie Hogan to “Nikki Hart” and told everyone that her aunt was actually her mom. But regardless of her name, Smith was still the same troublemaker who couldn’t care less about school.
She eventually failed her freshman year and had to drop out. But that didn’t bother the fiery, young woman. She dreamed of being the next Marilyn Monroe, and her education wasn’t going to get her there. It stood in the way of her glamorous goals.
What’s a girl going to do now that she’s out of school? Head to the nearest restaurant to look for a job. For Anna, it was a fast-food joint called Jim’s Krispy. At 17, Anna was cooking fried chicken and saving every penny to support herself. But there was one boy in the kitchen who made it difficult for her to concentrate.
She was smitten by a local boy named Billy Wayne Smith. The two worked long shifts together, and Smith was determined to win him over. She told her mom, “I’m going to get that boy, just watch, he’s going to marry me.” Anna worked her magic, and the two kids married at the young age of 18.
Smith’s mom called her daughter one evening and heard her panting on the phone. Disturbed by the uneven breathing, she asked Anna what’s up and received a candid response: “We’re trying to have us a baby.” Gosh, you got to love how refreshingly honest she was.
They expanded the family in 1984 when they gave birth to baby Daniel. Anna Nicole was over the moon, but sadly, the smiles didn’t last very long. Smith claimed her husband was dangerous, and she knew she had to get away. Daniel was only one year old when his parents called it quits.
A single mom, a high school dropout…life wasn’t looking too good for young Smith. She juggled low-end jobs at Walmart, Red Lobster, and basically any place that was willing to hire her. Daniel was her first priority, and a mom’s got to do what a mom’s got to do.
Even if that meant dancing for money. She landed her first gig as an exotic dancer entirely by chance. On her way home from one of her shifts, Smith passed by a flashy neon sign that fascinated her. She stepped into the bar to see if they were hiring and was surprised to discover the place had poles and topless dancers. She was offered an audition on the spot.
In Anna Nicole’s case, the apple fell very fall from the tree. Her mom, Virgie, worked in law enforcement and served as a deputy for nearly 30 years. So, you can guess her reaction when she found out that her daughter was stripping for men to make a living.
Angry and disappointed, Virgie demanded that her daughter rethink her decisions. She went so far as to drag her out of the club forcefully. But nothing could convince Anna. She was making $1,000 a night. Why in the world would she want to go back to Walmart?
Anna was extremely self-conscious the first time she stepped on stage to dance. Her main issue was her body. She wasn’t fully at peace with her weight, and neither was her obnoxious manager. He assigned her to dull, afternoon shifts because she was “too plump” for the evening customers.
We can only imagine how he felt after seeing her grace Playboy as playmate of the month in 1993. But in any case, he did her a favor. Those afternoon shifts led her to meet her second husband, 89-year-old billionaire, J. Howard Marshall.
J. Howard Marshall became Anna’s favorite afternoon client. He was 63 years older than her and bound to a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop her. Whether it was daddy issues, shameless gold-digging, or a combination of both, Smith wanted the 89-year-old billionaire all to herself.
Anna Nicole recalled how she saw him from afar and sensed something sad in his eyes. She wanted to “bring a twinkle to his eye.” So, she walked up to him, leaned over, and smiled seductively. For obvious reasons, Marshall was hooked.
The unconventional couple married in 1994. She was 26, and he was 89. The bombshell looked gorgeous in her low-cut white dress as she stood proudly next to her husband, who had to remain in his wheelchair. They kissed, she fed him a cake, and they danced clumsily around the hall.
But right after the loving ceremony, Anna pretty much peaced out and headed to a photoshoot waiting for her in Greece (arranged by none other than her new hubby). Rumors have it she left him crying in his wheelchair, to which she responded, “Aww… don’t cry Poopsie Baby.”
Despite everyone’s disapproving glances and snarky comments, Smith claimed that her love for Marshall was pure. She was deeply grateful for all his help with Daniel and confessed that she “never had a love like that before.”
And it wasn’t only Anna who showed affection. Marshall called his young wife “the light of his life” and showered her with dazzling jewelry, luxurious apartments, and five-star vacations. The oil tycoon spent around $12,000 million a year to keep her happy!
We all know Anna as the bombshell who oozed femininity and lovingly sent kisses to the camera. But before going platinum blonde, she was a tawny brunette. And before having an impressive set of double Ds, she was flat-chested with a relatively boyish figure.
Determined to achieve her dream body, Anna went through a number of painful procedures (the majority of which were funded by her tycoon husband). Her implants were so big that they caused her severe back pain and even busted open a few times.
Marshall’s son, Pierce, wasn’t happy seeing his dad snuggle up to a woman 63 years younger. And he clearly didn’t treat 26-year-old Anna as his actual stepmom. So, when his dad was eventually hospitalized for pneumonia, Pierce barely let her visit.
He limited her visits to 30 minutes a day and hired a security guard to be present in the room at all times. It’s unclear whether Pierce was scared she might poison Howard, or he just couldn’t stand her “fake sobs” over her dying husband. J. Howard Marshall eventually died 14 months after they wed.
Marshall didn’t include Smith in his will, but the star insisted he had verbally promised her half of his fortune. Obviously, Marshall’s family wasn’t having it. And his son, Pierce, was ready to give Smith the fight of her life in court.
The whole case was a complete disaster. An entertaining disaster, but a mess nonetheless. When the family’s lawyer asked Smith how in the world she managed to spend $100,000 a week, she innocently answered: “Gowns, shoes, makeup… it’s terribly expensive to be me.”
The Marshall case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006, and as time went by, Smith grew more and more desperate. She eventually filed for bankruptcy and pointed a blaming finger at Pierce – the evil man who interfered with her potential riches.
In some crazy way, the bankruptcy court granted Anna almost half a billion dollars. But she never saw a penny. They later decided that Marshall’s will was valid and that Pierce hadn’t interfered. From going bankrupt to owning billions to bankrupt yet again…
In 1992, Anna saw an ad for Playboy and decided to give it a shot. She sent the magazine some nudes, to which they gladly responded and called her in for her very first photoshoot. But contrary to popular belief, the small town girl was super shy at first and barely said a word.
In truth, Smith had every reason to be confident. Playboy editor Marilyn Grabowski confessed that “she was the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen without makeup.” The camera loved Smith, and her voluptuous curves made her playmate of the year in 1993.
Anna’s naked body was on the Playboy centerfold for every eager eye to open and see. She was thrilled but also a bit worried. She was scared of not being able to land a “real” modeling gig after letting it all loose. But she was wrong. Playboy was just the beginning for her!
Luckily, she caught the eye of a major figure in the fashion industry – the founder of Guess Jeans, Paul Marciano. Funny enough, Smith had no idea who he was. She was a simple country girl whose main question was, “Well, is he going to pay me?”
Paul Marciano advised the rising star to change her name to Anna Nicole Smith. It rolled off the tongue and was the perfect choice for her flirtatious persona. With a new name and lavish modeling campaigns, Anna Nicole was ready to take Hollywood by storm.
“I feel like I’m becoming somebody,” Smith confessed to People magazine shortly after her big break. The doors of fame were wide open, and she devoured every opportunity that came her way. She modeled for companies like H&M, Heatherette, and graced the cover of Marie Claire and GQ.
The ‘90s were a crazy decade for Smith. The former fast-food employee now had around $22 million and was blowing it on everything and everyone. She partied hard, drank excessively, and slept an hour a night. Anna Nicole never knew when to stop.
One of her associates admitted: “Instead of one pill, she would take three or four. Instead of one bottle of champagne, she would drink three or four. And if you gave her a box of doughnuts, she would eat every one of them.”
For years Anna Nicole struggled with her weight. The curvy model seemed confident enough in front of the camera, but she rose to stardom in the ‘90s, and the whole thin craze was getting to her. She tried hard to restrain herself from overeating, but whenever things got rocky, she binged.
Smith abused different supplements and sketchy diet pills to lose weight and even became the spokesperson for an alleged appetite killer named TrimSpa. She claimed she lost 69 pounds with those pills and would pop at least six a day. Although the brand tripled their sales with Smith’s help, they were banned in 2008 because their product was incredibly dangerous.
Smith decided to play Santa one Christmas evening when she invited her family over and showered them with expensive gifts. But the night didn’t go as planned. Sadly, everyone left the second they got what they came for (her presents).
Not to play the psychologist here, but Anna Nicole’s ravenous attitude probably had to do with how unloved she felt. She even begged her relatives to tattoo an image of her to prove that they care (which no one did, for obvious reasons).
As Anna grew in fame, her childhood stories kept getting sadder and sadder. She told the press she grew up in such poverty that she had to steal toilet paper from restaurants and live on food stamps. At first, people bought into it, but after a while, it became a bit pitiful.
Her mom knew how her daughter really grew up, so she confronted Anna with her lies. To which Anna responded: “Momma, the worse the story, the more pitiful the story, the more money I make.” Ridiculous? Yes. But was she wrong? No, her sad stories fueled her stardom.
The Anna Nicole Show was like its lead actress – a hot mess. The reality sitcom debuted on E! in 2002 and gave viewers an inside look at how crazy she was. She slurred and moaned half of the show, and CNN deemed it an “obscene train wreck.”
The show was clearly scripted, and producers were heavily intervening in the whole parade. We know that reality is far from being real, but we usually get a good laugh out of it. In Smith’s case, her show was so fake and cringy it left viewers sad.
The only good thing that came out of her show was that she met cameraman, Larry Birkhead. She spotted him on set and quickly worked her charm. Larry recalls how unpredictable Smith was, and how their relationship was thrilling but also, at times, really exhausting.
At one point, he decided to call it quits, but she took his hand, put it on her belly, and said, “Well, you’ll feel stupid if you leave because we’re going to have a baby.” Enough said. Larry stayed by her side throughout the pregnancy until she took off a few months later to give birth in the Bahamas.
For years Smith hoped to have a daughter that would bring joy to her life. And on September 7, 2006, her dream came true. She gave birth to Dannielynn at a hospital in Nassau, Bahamas. Enchanted by her blue-eyed baby girl, Smith felt that the family was now complete.
The distorted part here was that she didn’t allow Birkhead to be present at the birth. Yet, she invited cameras to the hospital to document the whole thing. Always the businesswoman, Smith sold the video for an estimated $1 million.
Birkhead wasn’t Anna Nicole’s only lover. And despite being told that he was the father, there was another man who claimed otherwise. Her lawyer and lover Howard K. Stern strongly believed he was Danielynn’s dad.
After a long, hard battle, a DNA test shushed everyone down and confirmed that Birkhead was the real baby daddy. Stern was disappointed, but he couldn’t argue with the evidence. He accepted defeat, and the two hugged it out like mature grownups.
Anna Nicole witnessed firsthand how tragically absurd life is. Only three days after Dannielynn’s birth, her son was taken away from her. At 20 years old, Daniel Wayne Smith passed away from a deadly cocktail of antidepressants and methadone.
The tragedy was too bizarre and painful to fathom. As could be expected, shady conspiracies surfaced in a desperate attempt to make sense of the chaos. Smith even blamed her lawyer, Howard K. Stern. She violently screamed: “You did this! You killed him! You caused this!”
Anna thought that Daniel was the only person who truly, unconditionally loved her. So, when she lost him, her grief was unbearable, and she was inconsolable. They had to sedate her to bring her to the funeral, but no amount of pills would numb her broken heart.
She screamed and tried to climb into Daniel’s casket. It was a horrifying sight, and it took them four hours to get her off his body so they could proceed with the funeral. Although Anna had a baby waiting for her at home, she was in no position to be a mom.
Anna’s last days were a complete blur. She suffered terrible flu-like symptoms and spiraled in and out of consciousness in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock and Casino Hotel. She had initially traveled to Florida in order to buy a yacht. But she was way too weak to even step out of bed.
Along for the trip were Smith’s bodyguard Big Moe and his wife (who was a trained nurse), her lawyer, Howard K. Stern, and her psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich. Her close group of friends carefully watched over her, but that wasn’t enough to keep this distraught star alive.
Not even five months after her son’s death, 39-year-old Anna Nicole Smith was found unconscious in her hotel room. Bodyguard Big Moe tried to revive her, desperately crying out, “Your daughter needs you! We need you!”
Her death made headlines around the world, partly because it was such a freakish coincidence, happening so close to her son’s death. An autopsy revealed the culprit was, yet again, a deadly cocktail of sleeping pills. But many people commented that the real reason was heartbreak and grief.
The star’s untimely death raised some burning questions, like who was behind all of those negligent prescriptions? People hurried to blame lawyer Howard K. Stern for conspiring with psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich to prescribe the star with reckless doses.
But nobody wanted to hurt Anna intentionally. It was just that no one dared to tell her no. Everyone wanted to be a part of her “celebrity entourage,” and if that meant feeding her drug addiction, so be it. Eventually, neither lawyer nor doctor were convicted.
Anna’s obsession with Marilyn Monroe began as soon as she learned how to talk. She would ramble on about how she wished to be like the iconic movie star, and, looking at Anna’s life, she seriously went to great lengths to achieve that goal.
She styled her hair like Marilyn, dressed as Marilyn, and moved into a house in LA once owned by… Marilyn. The creepiest part was when she confessed that she wanted to die like Marilyn – at the age of 40, beautiful and nude on a bed after taking a bunch of pills. Well, mission accomplished.
Anna’s relationships were all over the tabloids, and everyone knew how much she loved her men. But following her death, a woman named Sandi Powledge spoke up and confessed that she and Smith had shared an intimate relationship for three years.
The two met in 1991 at a Houston lesbian bar. Anna’s beauty struck Powledge, and she shyly offered her a dance. Their secret love felt like a fairytale, but no matter how much affection Powledge showed her, it was like “trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom.” Anna never believed that anyone loved her.
In Hollywood, as per usual, models become actresses at one point (miraculously, all pretty women can somehow act?). And Anna was no exception. She took on a few roles in the ’90s in movies like The Naked Gun 33 1\3 and Skyscraper.
Although she wasn’t the best actress in the world, nobody complained. She was insanely good looking and eventually became the reason why people watched those movies in the first place. Anna in the shower, Anna in lingerie, Anna in bed…you get the gist.
Remember young and naive Kanye West? Before he decided to run for President, and things got a bit weird? Who could forget his incredible workout plan, and more important, who could forget his incredible sidekick, former trailer trash, Ella-May?
Her stunning looks and quirky performance in that clip earned her a lot of attention. But it was the beginning of the end for Anna. Later that year (2004), she went on stage at the American Music Awards to introduce Kanye but slurred her speech to the point that it was painful to watch. A few years later, she passed away.
You were never quite sure if Anna was putting on an act or being her genuine self. But after her diaries from the ’90s were found, they allowed people to see what truly went on inside her naïve and almost childlike mind.
After she bought $3000 worth of clothing, she wrote: “I’m so happy they look great, I hope it impresses Paul Marsiano. … I’m starving!! I’ve been starving myself.” In another entry, she wrote: “I don’t no what to do about Paul hes strange guy. I hate for men to want sex all the time.”
Larry claims his daughter is “as fearless as her mom.” She’ll go on any rollercoaster and take up any challenge. Well, except one – being in the spotlight. Danny is the spitting image of her mom, but they couldn’t be less alike when it comes to the cameras.
As a tribute, Dannielynn agreed to model for Guess Jeans way back in 2012 (she reportedly earned $10,000). But the experience convinced her that she’s not interested in the limelight. All she wants is a simple, normal childhood.
Anna earned fast money, blew it all, earned it again, and spent it all like a mad woman. She even filed for bankruptcy at one point. So how much was this star worth at the time of her death?
Different sources claim different things, but it ranges anywhere between $1 to $5 million. Not bad. Somehow, I was expecting way less. Her daughter, Dannielynn, is said to be worth between $3 to $10 million. So even though she never inherited Marshall’s billions, she’s still living a very comfortable life.
The film of Anna’s life was released in 2013 and showcased her life from beginning to end. It stars actress and model Agnes Bruckner, who does a great job acting out Smith’s “rags-to-riches” fairytale.
The film shows a lot of drug abuse, a lot of obsessing over fame and money, and some genuine moments between Anna and her son. Reviews weren’t the best, but I doubt anyone had high expectations in the first place.