The Untold Truth Of Anna Nicole Smith

The following article includes references to mental health issues, substance misuse, eating disorders, and child abuse, domestic abuse, and sexual assault allegations.

Model, actor, and mother; in only 39 years, the late Anna Nicole Smith lived many different lives. In the early '90s, Smith broke into the limelight after landing a place on the cover of Playboy's March 1992 issue. That same year, the young model was named Playboy Playmate of the Month, before going on to secure a deal with Guess Jeans. But while many might not have seen Smith's success coming, she apparently did. "From the minute I met her, she always told me she was gonna end up being a famous model," former best friend Missy Byrum recalled in Netflix's 2023 documentary "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me." Similarly, Smith allegedly had a premonition she would be on Earth for only a short time. "And she always told me she was gonna die young," Byrum added. 

Sadly, fame came with a price. "It's terrible the things I have to do to be me," Smith reportedly used to say, per People. "You got to give people want they want, baby!" But despite her very public life, Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, claimed in the doc that the model's tragic life story was not what she made it out to be. "I make more money telling sad stories than I make telling good stories," the "Skyscraper" star reportedly once told her mom. "If it's bad, something really bad, I make 50 times the amount of money I make if it's good."

With doubts now cast on certain parts of her life, fans are left wondering: What really is the truth about Anna Nicole Smith?

Anna Nicole Smith is not her birth name

While she is now famously referred to as Anna Nicole Smith, the late model was given a different moniker at birth. Born in November 1967 to Virgie Mae and Donald Hogan, Smith was named Vickie Lynn Hogan. However, after moving out of Mexia, the small Texan town she grew up in, Smith decided to go by another name. "She did tell me that she didn't like her name. She said she didn't like Vickie. She said, 'I like Nicky better.' So I said, 'Okay, if that's what you wanna be called, then I'll call you Nicky," Missy Byrum, a former friend of the model, recounted in "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me." Clearly, Nicky is not the name that stuck.

During her earliest modeling days working for Guess Jeans, Smith was advised to find a stage name that would ring a bell. Soon, Smith — together with Paul Marciano, co-founder of Guess — came up with the name with which she is now widely known. "Anna Nicole came from Guess Jeans, Paul Marciano and me and one of his friends we were sitting around coming up with a stage name, and that's where that came from," Smith explained during a 2002 appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live."

As for her last name, Smith explained that she got it from one of her marriages. "That's my other married name. That's my first married name," she revealed.

The star reportedly had a rough childhood

Years before becoming a famous sex symbol, Anna Nicole Smith was a little girl with an impoverished childhood in Mexia, Texas. Following her parents' divorce when she was just a toddler, Smith lived with her mother, Virgie Mae, and stepdad Donald R. Hart. But even though her birth father was out of the picture, Smith and her mom struggled to get along — because of Virgie's alleged abusive ways. "She told me about Virgie, her mother. She was in law enforcement, and she was kind of a tyrant. She would handcuff her to the bed for days and just beat her mercilessly," Smith's former friend, Missy Byrum, claimed in the Netflix documentary.

As she grew into her teenage years, Smith's relationship with her mother seemingly got worse. To tame her increasingly wild daughter, Virgie Mae sent Smith to live with her extended family. "I switched around a lot and stayed with my aunt most of the time because of my homelife," Smith said in a previous interview featured in "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me." 

Her uncle, George Beall, also confirmed this in the documentary, revealing that, at the time, Virgie Mae was apparently worried about her daughter's relationship with an older man. "They were having troubles with this 29-year-old man that Vicky Lynn was infatuated with," he explained. "I had her windows nailed shut so she couldn't get out the windows without me knowing it."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Anna Nicole Smith had an unsuccessful acting career

She might have had the modeling and fashion industry wrapped around her finger, but acting was something Anna Nicole Smith never seemed to crack. The blonde beauty made her debut in 1994 when she appeared as Za-Za in the Coen brothers' "The Hudsucker Proxy." As recounted by Missy Byrum in "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me," Smith was invited by the filmmaking duo to do a reading and was subsequently given the part. 

"I was just acting very calm. And we said our goodbyes to everybody and got down to the bottom of the stairs and we start screaming," Byrum recalled of the model's reaction to landing the role. "We are jumping up and down. That was her first movie. She's in movies now." After "The Hudsucker Proxy," Smith continued getting more acting gigs, racking up credits in films like "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult," "To the Limit," and 1996's "Skyscraper." Despite her attempt at having an equally successful acting career, the model never quite got there. 

In the early 2000s, she attempted to revitalize her celebrity status with "The Anna Nicole Smith Show," a popular reality series that premiered on E! network in 2002. Sadly, after only two seasons, it was canceled, despite impressive ratings. "The show, creatively, was not where we wanted it to be," Mark Sonnenberg of E! Entertainment explained to Daily Variety (via Digital Spy).

The Playboy model was married twice

Anna Nicole Smith's 14-month marriage to the much older oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II was a tabloid staple back in the mid-'90s. But despite the attention this union racked up, this was in fact not Anna Nicole's only marriage. According to People, the former Playboy model was previously married to Billy Wayne Smith, whom she met at 17. Billy, like Anna Nicole, was working at Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken in Houston, Texas at the time.

Speaking to the Daily Mail in 2017, Anna Nicole's mother, Virgie Arthur, revealed the model had a crush on Billy first and pursued him relentlessly. "He was a sweet young man, very timid and shy," she recalled. "It made her mad because he didn't pay attention to her. She told me, 'I'm going to get that boy, just watch, he's going to marry me.'" Clearly, Anna Nicole got her way, and in 1985, she got married to Billy. Sadly, life with him was apparently nothing like she imagined.

In a 1994 interview with Stina Dabrowski, Anna Nicole opened up about her marriage with Billy, whom she described as an alleged controlling husband who never let her leave the house. To deal with the loneliness, she decided to have a baby, and so in 1986, Anna Nicole and Billy welcomed their son, Daniel Smith. This, however, seemingly did very little to make things better. Eventually, Anna Nicole walked away. "He was a very abusive father, so I left when my son was six months old," she claimed, further alleging that Billy also physically assaulted her.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Anna Nicole Smith's mental health struggles

Following her tragic death of an accidental drug overdose in February 2007, Dr. Nathalie Maullin — a psychiatrist at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center — testified in court that Anna Nicole Smith struggled with substance misuse, a condition now revealed to have been caused by her numerous cosmetic surgeries. According to Missy Byrum, the Playboy model developed an unhealthy relationship with painkillers after undergoing a breast augmentation procedure. "God, it ... it was painful," Byrum said of the procedure. "You know, it was horrible to watch somebody go through that because it hurts like hell. And that is when she started on her, uh, pain pills. Valium, Xanax, Lortabs, Vicodin, and the Klonopin." From that moment onward, Byrum noted, there was no stopping for the model. 

Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, Smith's former physician, made similar suggestions about the star's dependence on drugs in his 2017 memoir "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor: My Life Before, During, and After Anna Nicole Smith." Kapoor explained to Fox News, "She had back pain, she had some issues with her breast implants, and had several injuries. She had been dealing with pain for many years and had tried to deal with it."

According to "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me," the Playboy model also developed an eating disorder near the start of her controversial career, reportedly stemming from often being told to lose weight. "Her weight swings were not just about greed or drugs," director Ursula Macfarlane told Vanity Fair. "They were someone who was suffering with eating disorders, which is obviously psychological pain."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

She was linked to many men over the years

Outside of her two short-lived marriages, Anna Nicole Smith was linked to many different men in her lifetime. Though some of these romantic relationships were made public, others were not so much. Case in point, her long-term affair with photographer Larry Birkhead, which began after the two first met in 2003. "Our love story was so up and down, and it has so many things combined, but it was a two-year affair that people didn't really know about," he told "Good Morning America" in 2020. Though it's unclear when they ended things, Larry has since been confirmed as the father of Smith's second child, Dannielynn Birkhead, who was born in September 2006.

But while Smith kept her relationship with Larry under the radar, one partner she did show off publicly was Howard K. Stern. The pair met following the August 1995 death of Smith's second husband, J. Howard Marshall II. Though he started off working as her attorney over matters regarding Marshall's estate, Smith's relationship with Stern eventually took a romantic turn. "I kissed him first. He was the shy one. He was like, 'I can't, I can't,' because he always had to go by the books," she once told Entertainment Tonight. "I knew I was in love the first time I kissed him."

Smith was also romantically linked to Zsa Zsa Gabor's widower, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, as well as fashion designer Christian Audigier and her former bodyguard, Alexander Denk, all of whom claim to have been intimate with the late model.

Anna Nicole Smith's permanent residence in the Bahamas

In July 2006, Anna Nicole Smith relocated to the Bahamas, allegedly to avoid revealing the true paternity of her soon-to-be-born daughter, Dannielynn Birkhead. According to the Bahamian law at the time, an individual with property valued at over $500,000 was eligible to be granted permanent residence in the Caribbean country. With Smith reported to own a $900,000 mansion given to her by her ex-boyfriend, Gaither Ben Thompson, in the Bahamas, she was subsequently granted permanent residence. Things, however, took an ugly turn for the model that November, when Thompson publicly claimed that he gave Smith a loan to buy the house. Upon Smith's alleged failure to repay the loan, the businessman sought a court order asking to gain ownership of the mansion, as reported by Today

Outside of her legal dispute with Thompson, the legality of Smith's permanent residence also came under question after photos published by a local newspaper showed her in bed with Shane Gibson, the then-immigration minister who approved her residency. Shortly after her February 2007 death, Gibson — who ended up resigning from his role — publicly denied granting Smith her permit based off of his personal relationship with her. "I unconditionally deny that I ever abused my ministerial office by granting Anna Nicole Smith any permit of which she was undeserving or for which she was not qualified under the laws of the Bahamas," Gibson said at the time, per The Sydney Morning Herald

The model left her wealth to her late son

As with many celebrities, Anna Nicole Smith's death was followed by one big question: Who inherits her wealth? A few weeks after her passing in February 2007, CNN confirmed that the former model had left her assets to her late son, Daniel Smith, who'd tragically died of an accidental overdose at age 20 in September 2006. The will, dated July 30, 2001, technically made no direct mention of Anna Nicole's second child, Dannielynn Birkhead, who was only five months old at the time of her mother's death. Unsurprisingly, attorney and partner Howard K. Stern was named executor of the will.

For his part, Stern argued that Dannielynn be made sole beneficiary of the will, per The Sydney Morning Herald. In his court filing that October, the attorney stated that it was Smith's intention to include her infant daughter in the will, but she unfortunately never got the chance to before she died. After months of legal back and forth, a Los Angeles judge granted the petition in March 2008 and made Dannielynn the sole beneficiary of her mother's estate. Dannielynn's father, Larry Birkhead, was named a co-trustee alongside Stern.

"We and Mr. Stern always believed that Anna Nicole never intended to disinherit her daughter," Stern's attorney, Bruce S. Ross, stated at the time (via People). "I'm pleased to say this chapter in the saga is closed."

Anna Nicole Smith's sexuality was reportedly fluid

In "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me," former bestie Missy Byrum claimed she began an intimate relationship with Anna Nicole Smith in 1992. "She was so beautiful. I was really in love with her. I was her first female lover, I guess," Byrum stated in the Netflix documentary. "... She was a good lover, very good lover." The alleged romance evolved into something deeper when Anna Nicole proposed the following year, with Byrum telling People, "She gave me a set of rings and we got married in the backyard by the pool with champagne. ... She wanted me to have a baby with her." Byrum added, "But I always knew it wasn't ever going to work out because she was never, ever going to settle down with one person." 

When Anna Nicole's struggles with substance misuse became increasingly worse, Byrum eventually called things off. While she might have been the model's first female partner, she was supposedly not the last. Indeed, as fashion designer and pal Pol' Atteu told People of Anna Nicole's sexuality, "I would say she was fluid. We just did not have a name for it back then."

In his 2017 memoir, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor alleged that his former patient had a short affair with son Daniel Smith's girlfriend in 2006. "The girl fell in love with Anna, and the two of them had a brief sexual relationship," Kapoor claimed (via the Daily Mail). "It was downright Shakespearean." This reportedly led to a falling out between mother and son, who made amends shortly before Daniel's death that September.

The star's complicated relationship with her father

Following her parents' divorce, a young Anna Nicole Smith became estranged from her father, Donald Hogan. And so, after landing herself a deal with Guess Jeans and becoming 1993's Playmate of the Year, Smith set out to find the missing piece of her life. In "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me," the model is shown to have hired a private investigator who tracked down Donald and Smith's half-brother, then-16-year-old Donnie Hogan. Upon locating them, Smith invited the two to see her in California. 

"At the beginning, it was great. I mean, she was excited, we were excited. You could tell she wanted a father figure in her life," Donnie recounted in the documentary. However, what was arguably one of the best times of Smith's life allegedly soon took a dark turn. "She told me that her father had tried to have sex with her. I was really sad to see that. She was so so disappointed," Missy Byrum revealed. Of the attempted rape allegation, Donnie was shocked but ultimately said of their father, "I wouldn't put it past him." Donnie also revealed that he'd felt the need to warn his famous sister about Donald, explaining in the doc, "My father is not the type of guy you want to be alone with. You're not going to feel safe. He's a monster."

As reported by The Guardian, Donald Hogan had a history of sexual abuse against underage girls, including daughters he had with his second wife, as well as Smith's aunt.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Anna Nicole Smith's life behind the scenes

To the world, she was Anna Nicole Smith, but behind closed doors, she was Vickie Lynn — a woman we barely knew. "Any kinda camera, you just yelled out her name, 'Anna Nicole.' When she turned around, it was on the spot; you saw Anna Nicole," ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead explained to "20/20" of the late model in 2021 (via ABC News). When the cameras went off though, Birkhead confirmed that Smith was a completely different person, saying, "She was back to Vickie Lynn. I [am] very fortunate to have met and gotten to know Vickie Lynn."

Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, echoed this sentiment in an interview with the Daily Mail while recounting memories of the former Playmate of the Year, whom she described as beautiful and funny. "People won't know her as Vickie Lynn like we do," Arthur said. "Her family knows her because they were raised with her. Other people don't, they just know her as Anna Nicole. Vickie Lynn was a great kid and now she's gone."

Like many celebrities who struggle with fame, it seems as though Smith's success and popularity ultimately meant losing part of herself. According to Ursula Macfarlane, director of "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me," Smith spent her life attempting to play to and live up to others' expectations of perfection. "I don't know if Anna Nicole truly knew who she herself was," Macfarlane told People.