Vickie Lynn Hogan didn’t finish high school.
The Houston native failed her freshman year, eventually dropping out when she was a sophomore and finding work in a fast-food restaurant.
However, within eight years, she had changed her name, and stepped into the spotlight as world famous model and Playboy centrefold Anna Nicole Smith.
With her life story hitting Netflix in the documentary Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me, it tells the incredible – and ultimately tragic tale – of the unforgettable girl next door-turned-socialite.
Speaking to Netflix’s official companion site Tudum, director Ursula Macfarlane said that ‘many previous books and films about Anna Nicole twisted her narrative.’
This time, she said, she wanted to tell the star’s story ‘in her own words.’
Anna Nicole’s tale is threaded back in her teenage years, where she worked in that fast-food restaurant. It was where she met her first husband, Billy Wayne Smith, as the pair worked together serving up fried chicken to the people of Houston.
It had the intensity that young love always does, with Vickie falling for Billy hard and fast.
‘[Billy] was a sweet young man, very timid and shy,’ Anna Nicole’s mum, Virgie Arthur, told the Daily Mail in 2017. ‘It made her mad because he didn’t pay attention to her.’
According to Eric Redding’s 2007 biography Sex Bomb, Anna Nicole said of Billy: ‘He drove me crazy. I chased him and chased him the way young girls do until I finally got him and married him. By then, of course, I wasn’t interested.’
The couple wed in 1985, when she was 17 and he was just 16. Then in January 1995, just two months after her 18th birthday, Vickie gave birth to their son, who they named him Daniel – ‘like Daniel in the Bible’ – Wayne Smith.
However, just one year later, love’s young dream was no more and the couple separated.
‘I wasn’t allowed to go out of the house or go to the store,’ Anna Nicole recalled. ‘He was so jealous.’
As a struggling single mother, Vickie turned to stripping to make ends meet – but her buxom figure saw her stand out against the preferred waif-thin figures of the moment.
Remembering what life was like at the time, in 2002, Anna Nicole told Larry King: ‘I tried Red Lobster. I tried Wal-Mart. I tried all these places and I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t. So, I tried this gentlemen’s club, and, you know, I worked there.’
It was while she was dancing at the now-demolished Gigi’s Cabaret, where she met the man who would later become her second, and final, husband: billionaire J. Howard Marshall.
The octogenarian petrol tycoon had just lost his wife and his mistress and was grieving.
‘I was 23, and he was 86,’ she recalled. ‘I saw a very sick man. I just wanted to just talk with him. There was no physical attraction at all. He was very much attracted to me.’
While Marshall’s lavished her with gifts and they began a relationship, Vickie didn’t seek a divorce from Billy, despite the old man’s pleas.
Around the same time, she was also seeing bodybuilder Clay Spires, who suggested she apply to be a Playboy model after a call out for open audtions. By 1992, she was on the March cover and just two months later, she was crowned Playboy Playmate of The Month.
Speaking about the opportunity, she said: ‘I am just so happy and thrilled and I am so glad Mr. Hefner chose me and all my fans out there that called out there, thank you. And I am just really, really excited.’
However, it was a role originally meant for Claudia Schiffer, that skyrocketed Vickie into the public eye, after she was picked to star in various 1993 adverts for Guess Jeans.
It was also the campaign that saw her transform into the blonde bombshell known as Anna Nicole Smith.
‘[Fashion designer] Paul Marciano and me and one of his friends – we were sitting around coming up with a stage name, and that’s where [Anna Nicole] came from,’ she explained to Larry King in 2002.
From there, the newly-named starlet who idolised Marilyn Monroe, went on to work with Vanity Fair, Italian Vogue, and H&M, appearing in billboards for the latter across Scandinavia.
Meanwhile, following her divorce from Billy in 1993, Anna Nicole was finally free to wed Marshall, and in 1994 the couple tied the knot in an intimate ceremony featuring just 11 guests at the White Dove wedding chapel in Houston, Texas.
The couple’s vast age difference made the pair easy tabloid fodder. In a report about the wedding, People magazine declared: ‘The bride wore cleavage. The 89-year-old groom, speaking from his wheelchair, assured the 11 people in attendance that he sure did adore his new 26-year-old wife, for whom he already had purchased $1 million worth of jewellery.’
Explaining why she waited so long, Anna Nicole said: ‘I promised him that I would marry him after I made something of myself, and I got to where I was a name.’
According to New York magazine, the model did not hang around for celebrations after the ceremony. After they sealed their nuptials with a kiss, she informed her new husband she was jetting off for a photoshoot.
The news hit the elderly Marshall hard, with the elderly billionaire said to be left ‘sat in his wheelchair crying.’
However, Anna Nicole had previously expressed gratitude to her second husband. Of the marriage, she said: ‘He took me out of a horrible place and was taking care of me and my son, and I loved him for that.’
That same year, Anna Nicole’s dreams of Hollywood took their first step, when she made her feature film debut in screwball flick The Hudsucker Proxy, where she played the impossibly sexy Za Za.
Although it starred Tim Robbins and Steve Buscemi, the movie was a box office flop – and while Anna Nicole went on to have a role in the hit Naked Gun franchise in 1994, her aspirations to be a successful actress never quite paid off.
In 1995, the newlywed had her first lead role in action thriller To The Limit. Co-starring John Travolta’s elder brother Joey, To the Limit received poor reviews and failed to make a name for Anna Nicole in the industry.
Just 14 months after she wed Marshall, Anna Nicole was said to have been left heartbroken when he died in August 1995, aged 90. His death triggered the actress spiral into a life of drugs and booze to cope with her loss.
She recalled in 2002: ‘I got addicted to pain pills and also alcohol when my husband was dying and when he died.’
‘No one has ever loved me and done things for me and respected me and didn’t care about what people said about me. I mean, he truly loved me and I loved him for it.’
Despite their clear affection for one another, there was no mention of Anna Nicole in Marshall’s will, which led to a serious court battle between the model and her late husband’s family.
Always maintaining that Marshall verbally promised her half of his wealth, she insisted: ‘He wanted me to have it and I’ll fight until the end.’
In an interview with ABC in 2000, the star added: ‘I don’t want to be called a gold digger because I’m not. I could’ve married him a week after we met, or two weeks after we met. I could’ve married him years before, and I didn’t… I went out and I made something of myself.’
It was an incredibly bitter battle between Anna Nicole and E. Pierce Marshall, J. Howard’s younger son for the $1.8 billion fortune. Things were so troubled that even the dead man’s ashes were split between them, and two separate funerals were held.
Finally, five years after her husband’s death, in 2000, Anna Nicole was awarded almost half a billion dollars from Marshall’s estate.
In response, E. Pierce Marshall, who claimed that Anna Nicole was only with his father for financial gain, said: ‘I will fight to clear my name in California federal court. That is a promise [she] can take to the bank.’
Indeed, it was a short-lived victory as within a year, the ruling was cruelly rescinded.
From there it was a back and forth that would last for years, as in 2002, $88million dollars was then offered – but once again the decision was overturned.
‘I’m gonna fight until the end.’ Anna Nicole said. ‘My husband is worth it. I’ll fight until the end.’
However, the battle for the will is something that outlived both Anna Nicole and E. Pierce Marshall, with the latter unexpectedly passing away in 2006 after a short but aggressive infection. It wasn’t until 2014 that the case was settled, which found that she was owed nothing from the estate.
Amid this vicious legal battle. Anna Nicole starred in The Anna Nicole Show from 2002 to 2004 – a fun E! ‘reality’ TV series that ran for three seasons. Her lawyer, manager, and soon-to-be partner Howard K. Stern made frequent appearances, as did Anna Nicole’s son Daniel.
Following the show’s cancellation, during an appearance at the 2004 AMAs, Anna Nicole slurred her speech and acted erratically. This behaviour sparked conversations about potential drug use.
In a bid to escape any scrutiny and the media circus, Anna Nicole moved to the Bahamas with her then-boyfriend Howard and in June 2006, she announced on her website that she was pregnant.
Questions immediately arose about paternity, with Anna Nicole’s previous partner Larry Birkhead, personal bodyguard Alexander Denk, and Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband Frederic von Anhalt, all claiming to be the father.
When her daughter was born later than year on 7 September, and was named Hannah Rose Marshall Stern, it seemingly ending questions about who her father was, leaving Anna Nicole and her family to concentrate on their future together.
However, in a truly tragic twist, just three days later, after visiting his mum and new sister, Anna Nicole’s first child, Daniel Wayne Smith, died from an accidental overdose.
When Anna Nicole found her son, she was in such anguish that she had to be sedated. Then, at Daniel’s funeral, Howard, said she attempted to climb inside Daniel’s coffin.
‘She said that, “If Daniel has to be buried, I want to be buried with him,’” he recalled. ‘She was ready to go down with him.’
Just five months after the death of her son, and following a commitment ceremony with Howard where they exchanged rings and vows but they were not legally married, Anna Nicole Smith passed away on 8 February, 2007. Echoing her son’s sudden passing, she too died from an accidental overdose.
Within weeks of her death, DNA tests revealed that Hannah was not the daughter of Howard K. Stern, Anna Nicole’s live-in partner. Instead, a Bahamian judge ruled that her real father was in fact Larry Birkhead, the star’s on-and-off partner from 2004 to 2006.
Larry was given sole custody of Hannah and her name was changed to Dannielynn Hope Marshall Birkhead.
‘Thank you for the people who got me this far,’ Larry said at the time. ‘Thank you very much. My baby’s gonna be coming home pretty soon.’
In a full-circle moment, Dannielynn began modelling for the kids’ branch of Guess at six years old.
Paul Marciano, the company’s co-founder and the same man who gave Anna Nicole her name two decades earlier, said that Dannielynn had ‘the same playful spirit’ as her mother.
Now 16, Dannielynn shares an Instagram page, larryanddannielynn, with her father. There they post life updates and frequent tributes to her mother.
The pair enjoy travelling together and every year they attend the Kentucky Derby, the place that Larry and Anna Nicole first met.
In 2020, a two-hour episode called Anna Nicole Smith and Larry Birkenhead, from Lifetime’s documentary miniseries Hopelessly in Love, was released. While promoting the episode, Larry revealed the last time he ever spoke to Anna Nicole and what she said to him.
She sent me [a message],’ he shared. ‘She said: “Don’t fall in love again,” and then she had a crying face and then she signed off.’
Anna Nicole Smith lived fast and died young, just like her idol Marilyn Monroe.
While she did not get the ending she deserved, she lived certainly lived a life that Vickie Lynn Hogan could have only dreamed of.
Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me is available to stream on Netflix now.
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