Anna Nicole Smith was only 39 when she died in a Florida hotel room six years ago as a result of an overdose of prescription drugs.
A former model, one-time stripper and occasional reality TV star, she was a symbol of her times – a smalltown-girl-turned-sex-goddess who was perhaps best known for her surgically enhanced breasts and a brief marriage to a billionaire 63 years her senior.
In life, her story possessed some of the tragic qualities of her heroine Marilyn Monroe – including an addiction to painkillers – and she was devastated by the premature death of her son Daniel at the age of 20. But perhaps most tragically of all, Anna Nicole’s demise meant her one surviving child, daughter Dannielynn, has absolutely no memories at all of her mother.
Dannielynn was just five months old when her mother died and her story is told in the documentary Life After Anna Nicole, which airs tomorrow night.
Dannielynn’s father, Anna Nicole’s former boyfriend Larry Birkhead, narrates much of the programme and, even at seven years old, Dannielynn’s resemblance to her mother is striking. ‘When she smiles, she looks just like her mum,’ says Larry. ‘She’s a beautiful little girl.’
Larry, softly spoken and in his own words ‘just a geek from Kentucky’, has raised Dannielynn on his own for the past seven years. ‘I have to be both parents,’ says Larry, 40. ‘Some days she gets sad her mum’s no longer here, but other days she’s very accepting and will say, “I have an angel for a mum.” She knows Anna was a model and is in heaven, but obviously she’s too young to know the whole story.’
The Anna Nicole Smith story isn’t always palatable reading. The pneumatic blonde was performing in a strip club when she met the elderly oil tycoon J Howard Marshall, and became an instant sensation after featuring on the cover of Playboy and replacing Claudia Schiffer as the model for Guess jeans.
She married Marshall in 1994 – she was 26 to his 89 – and his death a year later sparked a long court battle between Anna Nicole and the Marshall family over the tycoon’s £1 billion estate that’s still going on.
She began dating Larry, a photographer, in 2004, ‘but it wasn’t an easy relationship,’ he admits. ‘She had an entourage and that got in the way sometimes, but I loved her and we talked about marriage. I was just some guy – I never thought I’d have a chance with Anna Nicole Smith, but we ended up having a child together.’
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