The late Anna Nicole Smith, former model, Playboy Playmate, and TV host, met freelance photographer Larry Birkhead at the 2003 Kentucky Derby pre-party known as the Barnstable-Brown gala. They went on to date for a brief period of time, but was cut short in 2007 when Anna Nicole died of an accidental overdose at the age of 39.
Five months before her death, she gave birth to her daughter, Dannielynn. Initially, she believed the father to be Howard K. Stern, who was Smith’s attorney and romantic partner at the time.
However, following her death, Birkhead demanded a DNA test, claiming himself to be the true biological father to Dannielynn.
And he was right.
With no bad blood or tension whatsoever, Howard conceded custody of Dannielynn to Larry and he has raised his daughter ever since.
Since Dannielynn turned 3 years old, Larry has taken her to the Kentucky Derby nearly every year, in honor of the event that her parents had first met. And every year at the annual horse race, they show up in the most eccentric attire as a tribute to Smith’s iconic fashionability.
Every year, Larry is able to remember the late mother to his child by how much she grows and looks more and more alike to Smith each day.
Talking with Inside Edition in 2014 while attending the Derby, Larry said, “I look at [Dannielynn] and she’s my everything. She reminds me so much of her mom and as she gets older, and her features are changing, it’s just like having a little miniature Anna Nicole running around in so many ways.”
But more than just her looks, Larry says her character is so similar to Anna Nicole’s, telling ABC News in 2017 that Dannielynn is “fearless like her mom”.
“She’ll get on any roller coaster that you put in front of her,”he added. “[But] I could stand right next to my daughter and we could look like twins, and the first thing they’ll say is … ‘spitting image of the mother.’”
The most recent Kentucky Derby was a particularly special one for the father-daughter duo. Last May, the ran into music icon Janet Jackson at the Barnstable-Brown gala where Dannielynn was actually wearing a replica of the outfit that Janet had worn at the same party in 2003, the year and place that Larry and Anna Nicole met.
Larry posted a photo of the three of them to his and Dannielynn’s joint Instagram account, writing, “What a night! Dannielynn got to meet [Janet Jackson] at the Barnstable-Brown Gala, while wearing Janet’s outfit that she wore to the same party in 2003. Janet was so gracious and complimentary of Dannielynn in her outfit. She made Dannielynn so happy and even graciously posed for a photo with us.”
While Larry has admitted to struggling a bit while raising his daughter on his own, saying things like, “It’s tough raising a little girl without a mom. You always want to make sure you’re doing the right things and a thing that a mom would choose that a dad might not choose,” in 2016, and, “We went from diapers and teething to braces and sports bras overnight,” in 2017, just check out their smiling faces at this year’s Kentucky Derby (which they’ll inevitably be at) and take a look at their Instagram account they share and you’ll know he’s doing a great job bring up that not-so-little girl of his.