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Smith, Anna Nicole (1967–2007)

Donn Trotter Biography

Anna Nicole Smith, model, actress, and reality television star, was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on November 28, 1967, in Houston, Texas, to Virgie Mae (Tabers) Hogan and Donald Eugene Hogan. Her parents married on February 22, 1967, but soon divorced on November 4, 1969, and Vickie lived with her mother in Houston. There her mother married Donald Ray Hart in 1970 and later divorced in 1983. Vickie attended Durkee Elementary in Houston and Aldine Middle School. Under the name of Nikki Hart, she briefly attended Humble High School, then transferred to Mexia High School around 1984 when she moved in with her aunt in Mexia, Texas. She dropped out sometime in 1985. On April 4, 1985, she married Billy Wayne Smith in Mexia. The couple, both teenagers, met at the restaurant where they both worked. She gave birth to their son, Daniel Wayne Smith, in Mexia on January 22, 1986. The couple separated the next year, and Vickie moved back to the Houston area, where her mother helped take care of her son while she worked in a variety of jobs, including Walmart cashier, food service, and exotic dancer.

In March 1992 Smith made her modeling debut as Vicki Smith in Playboy magazine. She was selected for the cover and the centerfold, for which she was paid $20,750, a considerable amount for someone who had grown up financially insecure. After seeing the magazine, Paul Marciano, the president of the Guess fashion company, flew to Houston to meet with her as a possible featured model for Guess. The next day they flew to San Antonio for a photo test session. Marciano, impressed with her physical appearance and natural ability, used many of the test shots in the next Guess international ad campaign and signed her to a three-year contract. He also convinced her to change her professional name to Anna Nicole Smith.

When the Guess ads came out in late 1992, Anna Nicole was launched into the spotlight with an international publicity tour. By the end of 1992 she had signed her first movie contract to appear in The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) with Tim Robbins and Paul Newman. In 1993 she appeared in a music video by Bryan Ferry and on the covers of Vogue Italia, Glamour, and Playboy. She also filmed Naked Gun 33 1/3 alongside Leslie Nielsen (1994) and modeled for H&M, Conair, and Marie Claire. That summer she was named Playboy’s Playmate of the Year for which she was paid $100,000 and given a car. Newspapers and television talk shows compared her to Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield. They regularly reported her height (five feet ten inches), weight, and bust-waist-hip measurements, and, based on the popularity of her and other curvy models, forecasted a major shift by the fashion industry away from a size-zero waif-ish industry standard. Although the prediction proved false, marketability of Anna Nicole, who reportedly wore a women’s size ten (the largest size Guess carried) in 1993, was credited, in part, for several mainstream fashion companies’ decision to expand their women’s clothing lines into plus sizes (size twelve and up).

Smith’s career as a fashion model sharply declined in 1994 after her first public incident with drug use, for which she was hospitalized in February, and her second marriage to a much older man in June. Anna Nicole divorced her first husband in February 1993. On June 27, 1994, she married eighty-nine-year-old oil magnate J. Howard Marshall, whom she had met in Houston in 1991. Newspaper columnists and television show hosts speculated on her marriage motives as well as ridiculed her class background and weight. Marshall’s death of natural causes fourteen months after his marriage to Smith accelerated what became a lengthy legal battle over his estate that began soon after the couple married. The court cases spanned three states, two decades, and took two forays to the United States Supreme Court, as the family of J. Howard Marshall challenged Anna Nicole Smith’s claims to his estate which included stock in Koch Industries and hundreds of millions of dollars. Smith’s later bankruptcy, filed through courts in California in 2005, muddied the case further, and sensationalism surrounding the trial even elicited a response from President of the United States George W. Bush. Other legal problems kept her in the spotlight. In 1995 she sued New York magazine after they featured an unflattering photo of her with the title “White Trash Nation” on their cover. Smith also faced legal issues involving former employees.

Between 1995 and 2005 she had guest roles on television and in B-movies, and in 2000 her modeling career revived as the featured model in Lane Bryant ads in New York City’s Time Square. She also walked in Lane Bryant’s February lingerie shows in 2000, 2001, and in a highly publicized fashion show to promote body positivity in 2002. From August 2002 to October 2004 she had her own eponymous reality television series on the E! cable network. In 2003 Smith became the spokesperson for TrimSpa weight-loss supplement, which led to more legal problems when she, along with TrimSpa, was named in a class action lawsuit after the Federal Trade Commission levied $1.5 million in fines against the company for false advertising in January 2007. Smith also took an interest in animal rights. In 2005 she protested seal hunting and became a spokesperson for the activist group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in their campaign to stop animal testing by the IAMS dog food company.

Smith gave birth to her second child, Hannah Rose Marshall Stern, on September 7, 2006, in Nassau, Bahamas. Three days later, Smith’s twenty-year-old son, Daniel, died from a drug overdose while he visited his mother and half-sister in the hospital. This prompted Smith to change the name of her daughter to Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern (her surname was changed to Birkhead in 2007 after a paternity test determined photographer Larry Birkhead was her father). On February 8, 2007, five months after giving birth, Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental drug overdose in Hollywood, Florida. She was interred in the Bahamas. Howard K. Stern, Smith’s longtime attorney, talent agent, and her co-star on her reality television show, was named the executor of her estate. Litigation continued after her death over the Marshall estate including a 2011 United States Supreme Court case that dealt broadly with the jurisdiction of federal courts in probate-related issues. Anna Nicole, a biographical opera by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Richard Thomas, premiered in London in 2011 and in New York in 2013. In 2012, six-year-old Danielynn modeled for the 2013 Guess ads for their children’s clothing line.

Baltimore Sun, May 5, 1993. Jeffrey A. Brown, “Class and Feminine Excess: The Strange Case of Anna Nicole Smith,” Feminist Review 81 (2005). Daily News (New York, New York), August 13, 1993; February 15, 1994. Detroit News, September 23, 1993. Kelly Phillips Erb, "Judge in Decades Old Anna Nicole Smith Case Announces He’s Had Enough," Forbes, January 30, 2017 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/01/30/judge-in-decades-old-anna-nicole-smith-case-announces-hes-had-enough/#2f36ac8a33e9), accessed May 13, 2020. Skip Hollandsworth, "The Making of a Sex Symbol, 1993," Texas Monthly, July 1, 1993 (https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-making-of-a-sex-symbol-1993/), accessed June 10, 2019. Tansy E. Hoskins, Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion (London: Pluto Press, 2014). Jessica Misener, “Anna Nicole Smith’s Daughter Follows in Her Footsteps,” Huffington Post, November 26, 2012 (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dannielynn-birkhead-model-guess-kids-anna-nicole-smith-daughter_n_2192668), accessed May 13, 2020. Playboy, March 1992. Eric Redding and D’Eva Redding, Great Big Beautiful Doll: The Anna Nicole Smith Story (New York: Barricade Books, 1996). Tim Rutherford, Music After the Fall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017). San Francisco Examiner, February 19, 1993. Stephen M. Silverman, “Daniel Smith’s Father, Relatives, Hold Memorial,” People magazine, October 9, 2006 (https://people.com/celebrity/daniel-smiths-father-relatives-hold-memorial/), accessed May 1, 2020. Ed Stoddard and Jessica Rinaldi, “High School Remembers Anna Nicole—Barely,” Reuters, February 9, 2007 (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-annanicole-mexia/high-school-remembers-anna-nicole-barely-idUSN0930103120070210), accessed May 1, 2020. New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 16, 1994; October 21, 1994. Tyler Courier-Times, August 23, 1993. Elizabeth A. Wissinger, This Year’s Model: Fashion, Media, and the Making of Glamour (New York: NYU Press, 2015).

Categories:

  • Visual Arts
  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II
  • Texas in the 21st Century

Places:

  • Houston

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Donn Trotter, “Smith, Anna Nicole,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 28, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/smith-anna-nicole.

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