Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith's rise to fame was one of America's highest profile rags-to-riches stories. The curvaceous blonde managed to transform herself from burger-bar waitress to supermodel and millionairess in the space of ten years.

Born Vickie Lynn Hogan on November 28, 1967, Anna was brought up by her impoverished mother and aunt in the tiny town of Mexia, Texas, after her father walked out on the family. By the age of 17 she had dropped out of school and wed local boy Billy Smith, with whom she had a son, Daniel.

The young mother was set on realising her dreams, however. "Vickie always wanted a different name, just like she always wanted better than we had," admitted her aunt Kay later. And before long she had left her husband, changed her name and found work as an exotic dancer in Houston. She soon became one of the most sought-after dancers in the city's strip clubs, and it was in one of these establishments, in 1991, that she met elderly billionaire J Howard Marshall.

The oil tycoon, 63 years her senior, lavished gifts on the blonde bombshell, and a disapproving media was soon giving her all the publicity an aspiring model could hope for. A contract for Guess Jeans followed and when, in 1993, Anna became Playboy's "Playmate Of The Year" offers of movie and modelling work began to pour in.

It was her 1994 wedding to J Howard that made her a household name, however, as newspaper editors splashed her picture across more pages, in more publications, than any advertising contract could.

"I'm not a gold digger," insisted Anna, in response to some of the less flattering reports. "I could have married him a week after we met or two weeks after we met. I could have married him years before. And I didn't. I didn't. I went out and I made something of myself. And people don't appreciate that… I wanted to marry him because he loved me and he took care of me."

Despite movie appearances in Naked Gun: The Final Insult and the Coen brothers' The Hudsucker Proxy, it was her personal life the tabloids were interested in. When her husband passed away just 14 months after their wedding, an epic legal saga began, and the press got a story that ran and ran.

Legal wrangles with her former son-in-law, E Pierce Marshall, turned into a six-year courtroom battle. In 2000, a California judge finally ruled she should receive $475 million of J Howard Marshall's estimated $1.5 billion estate. That ruling was later overturned, with Anna being awarded $88.6 million in March 2002. The case was eventually settled in 2004 with Anna Nicole losing all claim to the massive fortune.

It may not have been the career the adolescent Anna Nicole dreamed of, but the former Playmate became a full-time media obsession. It was perhaps inevitable, therefore, that the craze for "reality TV" would see programme bosses looking in her direction. When The Anna Nicole Show premiered in 2002 around four million viewers tuned in to take a look inside the lives of the model and her nearest and dearest, leading to a second series being commissioned.

On June 1, 2006, she announced she was expecting a second child, giving birth to her daughter on September 7 in the Bahamas. While her lawyer Howard K Stern, with whom she exchanged vows during a commitment ceremony later that month, was named in the paternity section of the birth certificate, photojournalist Larry Birkhead filed a lawsuit claiming he was the baby's father.

Joy over the arrival of her daughter turned to tragedy, however, when Anna Nicole's 20-year-old son Daniel - who was visiting his mum and half-sister - died just three days after his half-sister's birth. The reality TV star later named the baby after her firstborn, calling her Dannielyn Hope.

Just five months after Dannielyn was born, tragedy struck again. On February 8, 2007, Anna Nicole was found unresponsive in a Florida hotel room, and was pronounced dead in hospital. "Personally I feel she didn't recover from the loss of her son Daniel, who was the love of her life," said Guess Jeans CEO Paul Marciano.
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