Anna Nicole Smith—previously Nikki Hart and born Vickie Lynn Hogan—had a surprising and prolific impact on American culture in the 1990s. From her 1993 “Playmate of the Year” title to The Anna Nicole Smith reality show to the inheritance case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, she has a name and a face that most people would recognize and rank alongside fellow blonde bombshells like Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy. Her story, however, is tragically singular.
Smith was raised in a small town in Texas. She dropped out of school at fifteen, was married by seventeen, and a mother at eighteen. By her early twenties, she was divorced and working two jobs, one as a waitress at a Red Lobster and one as a dancer in a gentlemen’s club.
It was at the club that she met J. Howard Marshall, an elderly oil tycoon who would later become her husband. The two began a relationship that proved beneficial to Smith. Soon after meeting Marshall, Smith covered an issue of Playboy, and in 1993 was named “Playmate of the Year”.
Smith’s career changed avenues when she met with Paul Marciano, the founder of the brand Guess, who was charmed by her modesty and decided to take her on as a model with his campaigns.
“I said, ‘Who are you?’ She said she was a waitress at Red Lobster. Everything I asked her she called me ‘sir,’” Marciano recounted. “She had never done pictures before. I had the kids’ photographer shoot her on the spot. I took her to New York and got her an agent and changed her name.”
In 1994, Smith and Marshall were married. She was 26 and he was 89 years old.
About her marriage, smith has said that Marshall, “took me out of a terrible place and he cares for me and my son, and in return, I took care of him, and I loved him for that.”
Unfortunately, Marshall died the following year, before he could write Smith into his will. His fortune was awarded to his son, E. Pierce Marshall, and Smith sued for half. At this point, Smith has gone into bankruptcy as a consequence of separate lawsuits. Marshall filed a defamation claim against her, for implying that he was impeded the wishes of his late father.
The case would go on for a decade. A federal judge award Smith $449 million, which a different judge shrank to $88 million. Marshall pushed the case to the Ninth Circuit.
In 2007, Smith gave birth to a daughter. Three days later, while visiting his mother and sister in the hospital, Smith’s son would overdose and die in the very hospital room where Smith was recuperating.
After that, Smith’s previously established pill addiction would run off the rails. Smith died on February 8th, 2007; also of an overdose, though aided by a broken heart.