Why We're Worried About Anna Nicole Smith's Daughter, Dannielynn

It's hard to believe, but Dannielynn Birkhead, daughter of iconic '90s model and reality TV darling Anna Nicole Smith, celebrated her 11th birthday in 2017. Her mother died suddenly and tragically of a drug overdose in 2007, leaving behind a baby that was just a few months old and the center of a tense, Bahamas-based legal battle between two men who claimed to be her father: Smith's non-celebrity lover, Kentucky photographer Larry Birkhead, and Smith's high-profile lawyer, Howard K. Stern. 

A paternity test proved Birkhead was Dannielynn's biological dad, and after he secured custody, he returned to his old Kentucky home to raise Dannielynn away (mostly) from the Hollywood spotlight. 

But as Dannielynn grows up, her quiet, relatively normal life may change as she becomes more aware of and better able to understand the darker parts of her mother's past. This little girl's history — and present day — are fraught with some scary elements, which makes it hard not to worry about what's going to happen to Dannielynn in the future.

It's hard to grow up in the spotlight without your mom

Plenty of kids raised by single parents grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults, and all those moms and dads out there going at it alone and doing double-duty are nothing short of heroic. But Dannielynn's situation is a little bit different. 

Since she was an infant when she lost her mama, there's no way she has even the faintest memory of Anna Nicole Smith, and that can be extremely difficult. Things could be worse, but we can't deny that Dannielynn will grow up with a lot of questions about the scandals and sorrow that surrounded her mom. 

Fortunately, it seems like her father is a proud and positive dad. Larry Birkhead has called Dannielynn his "good luck charm" and says she's "fearless, like her mom."

Even so, Dannielynn has already had to work through some very mature issues. In an interview with Today in 2010, Larry said, "She has these play dates where she sees other kids with moms. She sees cartoon characters with their mothers. She's curious."

A tragic past (and complicated family) can haunt a person

Dannielynn may not yet understand much about what happened in her infancy, but one day, she'll learn the sad circumstances. Not only did she lose her mother, but she also lost the older brother — and namesake — she never knew. 

Daniel Wayne Smith died at age 20; an investigation revealed that a toxic combination of methadone, Lexapro, and Zoloft was probably what killed him. Anna Nicole Smith was so distraught at the funeral that she reportedly tried to drag her son's body out of his coffin. It may be extremely difficult for this little girl to come to grips with losing so many members of her immediate family, especially at such a young age. 

Fortunately, Dannielynn's dad is clearly there for her. In a 2015 interview, she revealed her favorite place to visit is the Bahamas, where her mom and brother are buried. "We visit and I tell Dannielynn stories about her mom," said Larry. "I don't sugar coat it. I say there are some things that your mom did and you know I try to make her learn from it."

Her fame has been widely exploited

At the time Anna Nicole Smith's death, The Naked Gun 33 1/3 star had become more famous for her tabloid exploits than her acting or modeling work, and though Larry Birkhead is clearly a caring dad, he has arguably exploited his daughter's famous — or infamous — connections.

Larry made the media rounds for the ten-year anniversary of Smith's death in 2017 with Dannielynn as the centerpiece of the coverage. He invited photographers to snap photos as they strolled around the Bahamas on what would have been Smith's 50th birthday, revisiting the place where Dannielynn was born (and where Larry fought for custody.) The pair also "starred" in a made-for-TV documentary called Life After Anna Nicole: The Larry & Dannielynn Story. It paints an intimate, sad, and uncomfortable look at how the Birkheads picked up the pieces and struggled to move on after Smith's death. 

This is to say nothing of Birkhead's appearance on The Millionaire Matchmaker, or his claim that Dannielynn wants him to find love again ... with Britney Spears, or the duo's many red carpet appearances at the Kentucky Derby.

She rarely sees her mother's side of the family

The Birkheads reside in the Louisville, Ky. area, where Larry was raised. His late father ran a heating and air conditioning company there, and a lot of his family still lives there. "I think here in Kentucky is as normal as you can get," Larry told Inside Edition (via Redbook.) Be that as it may, Birkhead's family gets to see Dannielynn on a regular basis, but the kid has reportedly been cut off from her late mother's kin.

In 2017, Smith's mother and Dannielynn's grandmother, Virgie Smith, claimed that she hasn't seen her granddaughter since 2010. She sounds absolutely heartbroken about it. "I wanna be part of Dannielynn's life. She is my daughter's child and the only one left in that line of lives," Arthur told  the Daily Mail. "It's not fair to her, not to know her mother's side of the family." 

Virgie says she pleaded with Larry for access, ominously telling him that Dannielynn will eventually seek her out: "One day, you will have problems with her and she'll find where we're at and she will come to find us to talk about her mother." 

According to Larry, that's all a bunch of lies. "Anna's mom has seen Dannielynn, and she's seen her a few times," he told Inside Edition (via AOL) in 2017. "I say that only because I want the story to stop." 

She's done a little modeling

There's certainly nothing wrong with modeling. How else are we going to know how the clothes we buy may look on us if we can't see them professionally photographed on beautiful people? Seriously, many people have enjoyed modeling careers and became fine, upstanding, normal people. Others, well, didn't, such as Anna Nicole Smith, whose career as a Playboy centerfold and Guess model may have contributed to her premature, drug-addled demise. 

Both nature and nurture are powerful forces, and both of those suggest that Smith's daughter, Dannielynn, may best be advised to avoid her mother's path. Yet in 2013, Dannielynn got into the one thing possibly more cruel, cutthroat, and damaging than modeling: child modeling. At age 6, Dannielynn rocked the look for Guess Kids, the juvenile line of the brand that made her mom famous. "Dannielynn has the same playful spirit that her mother had on a set," said Guess creative director Paul Marciano. Uh, good?

She'll discover the horrible things people said about her mom

As Dannielynn grows up and grows more curious about her mom's life, a quick Google search will tell her all she needs to know — and then some. The availability of videos and photos of Smith will be both a blessing and a curse. Mixed in with the more tasteful magazine spreads and glitzy footage are countless stories about lawsuits, murder conspiracies, addictions, and sorrow. It's pretty scary stuff for a young girl (or woman, or man, of any age) to absorb.

Fortunately, it seems like her dad is prepared to have open and age-appropriate conversations about it. "There is YouTube these days and that stuffs out there and my daughter likes to Google already and I'm trying to keep her from it," Larry told Entertainment Tonight. "She'll see things, you know, when she grows up, that are not necessarily all true. Was [Smith] wild? Yeah, sure. But [she was] a great lady, and a great mom."

Everyone has an opinion

Another downside to the internet and the public eye: Not only can Dannielynn hear and see what people thought about her mother, but she will learn what they think about her, too. There's no escaping cyber bullies and tactless anonymous commentary. Dannielynn is still just a kid, and yet there has already been plenty of speculation about every facet of her life.

Larry Birkhead has said he's working hard to preserve his daughter's childhood and sense of normalcy. "I think [about] how far she's come, and all the craziness that swirled around her and that she was just, really none the wiser," he said in 2015. "Just a little kid doing her thing like she's supposed to be. That's the one thing that I'm most proud of that I've done — trying to keep everything as normal as I can, in just a really crazy, crazy situation." 

Our fingers are crossed that Dannielynn is able to grow up, learn what she wants to know about her mom, and make peace with the fact that she is lucky enough to have a dad who loves her very much.