Anna Nicole Smith: An Impactful, Strange Life Cut Tragically Short

Anna Nicole Smith seemed to live a life of public success and tumultuous hidden grief
Anna Nicole Smith seemed to live a life of public success and tumultuous hidden grief /

History only sometimes sees figures as remarkable as Anna Nicole Smith. Looking at any point in her life leaves an impression and gets discussions flowing. She set precedents and stood out in several ways. Some befit the image she herself sought. Others are rather surprising. No matter what, though, Anna Nicole Smith is a face many people recognize, with a name that carries equal weight.

For all the big-name stardom Smith came to enjoy, her early days suggested none of that to befall her future. Smith started out in a poor family living in small-town Texas. The Mexia, Texas native was born on November 28, 1967. In her early years, Smith had to establish her own way of doing things, rather than exclusively following what she saw around her. Exacerbating this requirement was her father’s absence. Donald Eugene Hogan left the family when Smith was still a baby, leaving her without a father figure.


Anna Nicole Smith learned to do things her own way early on

Billy Wayne, Anna Smith, and their son Daniel
Billy Wayne, Anna Smith, and their son Daniel /

Before becoming a national sensation, Smith worked smaller jobs. Throughout her teenage years, she worked at a local fried chicken restaurant. Eventually, she dropped out of high school and married a chef she met at that restaurant, Billy Smith. She was only 17 when she and Smith tied the knot. In 1984, the couple then had a child, a son named Daniel. The relationship and Anna Nicole Smith’s dreams seemed incompatible, however. Feeling chafed by small-town living, Smith left to realize a rather large ambition.

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Smith wanted to be the next Marilyn Monroe. Even with this specific dream in mind, it took some work to get there. Still, Smith had to work smaller jobs. She found employment at a Walmart and eventually became a dancer at a Houston strip club while her mother took care of Daniel. By 1991, Smith encountered one of the many defining points in her life. At that strip club, she met oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II.

And so began the major shift to stardom and fortune

Anna Nicole Smith eventually branched out from magazines to movies
Anna Nicole Smith eventually branched out from magazines to movies / Paramount Pictures

Smith wanted to embody the tempting, seductive elegance of Marilyn Monroe in every way. She also wanted others to see her as the next coming of Monroe. To achieve this, Smith sent out photographs of her posed and dressed – or undressed – seductively to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy. By 1992, she had the chance to pose for the adult magazine as well as appear in ads for the Guess fashion brand that same year.

The following year saw Anna Nicole Smith continuing to find success wherever she went. She and a few others received the title “Beauty of the Year” by Playboy. She also further expanded her presence to include movies. Smith thus went on to appear in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, and The Hudsucker Proxy. By this point, she became impossible to ignore.

All that attention didn’t appear to be stifling

J. Howard Marshall and Anna Nicole Smith
J. Howard Marshall and Anna Nicole Smith / Michael Gerber/Corbis

There are all sorts of testimonies regarding the effects of prolonged fame and scrutiny. Smith outwardly presented herself as welcoming of all the attention and frenzy. “I love the paparazzi,” she said according to Yahoo. “They take pictures, and I just smile away. I’ve always liked attention. I didn’t get very much growing up, and I always wanted to be, you know, noticed.” She received some very wealthy attention as well. By age 26, she had married that aforementioned oil tycoon, who himself was an 89-year-old billionaire.

With all this fame came the need for a memorable presence. Despite telling Kathie Lee Gifford, “I don’t work out,” Smith formed her body into something she thought the world wanted to see after her pregnancy. After that, she needed to address her name. Just as her idol Marilyn Monroe started as Norma Jean Baker, Smith needed to adapt from Vickie Lynn Hogan. Guess founder Paul Marciano claimed some responsibility in realizing this dream. They arranged to take pictures shortly after first meeting. Soon after her Playboy debut, Smith was connected with Guess. “I took her to New York and got her an agent and changed her name. To me, she was Anna, but Anna Smith did not sound right so we did Anna Nicole Smith,” Marciano explained.

But everything is not always as it appears

Smith and her son Daniel
Smith and her son Daniel / WireImage on TMZ

For all her gains, Anna Nicole Smith also experienced losses. Many left her permanently changed, though outsiders could not always tell if they didn’t take time to truly look. Smith felt elated to be a mother again when she gave birth to her daughter Dannielynn on September 7, 2006, with father Larry Birkhead. But days later, tragedy struck and her son Daniel died from drugs. Not only did she have to deal with a parent’s worst nightmare, but she suddenly received renewed media attention, and this time she did not enjoy it. Reminders of her son’s death issued from every headline and television around her. Meanwhile, she suddenly faced a custody battle for Dannielynn.


Too soon, a similar fate was to befall Smith herself. “She had such a magnetic personality, but you could see that she was fragile,” Marciano recalled. “Success came and she got recognized by people. She started taking sleeping pills because she couldn’t sleep and mixing alcohol with them. I stopped working with her because I couldn’t deal with that. I said, ‘We’re done.’ After that, she met the wrong people, and I think that was it.” Indeed, a poor support base may very well have contributed to Smith’s downfall. After being found unconscious in her hotel, Anna Nicole Smith died on February 8, 2007; following her death, people started pointing fingers. Howard K. Stern was accused of supplying and enabling Smith’s prescription drug dependency. His conviction – along with those raised against two others – was thrown out in 2011. But a misdemeanor remained against Smith’s psychiatrist. Anna Nicole Smith truly represents all we hope to see and pray to avoid in a dramatic Hollywood rise to fame. She experienced remarkable success against towering odds, yet became entangled in an unhealthy web that cost her her successful life.

Smoth found success and despair in seemingly equal measure behind the scenes
Smoth found success and despair in seemingly equal measure behind the scenes / J. Berliner /BEI / Shutterstock


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