Anna Nicole Smith: Not dumb. Or a blonde
With her tragic end documented by many, the beginnings of Anna Nicole’s story are far too easily forgotten.
For many young people, the name Anna Nicole Smith may mean nothing. Others, who are slightly older, most probably remember her for her many controversies, Often depicted by the media as a gold digger, a drug addict, and labelled ‘white trash.’
With a re-evaluation of how women such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton were treated by the media, Anna Nicole also deserves to be re-evaluated.
In the recent ABC documentary, Tragic Beauty; Anna Nicole Smith, her daughter Dannielynn, reconnected with her mother, through memories shared by those who knew her. The documentary focuses on the whole notion of tragedy within Anna’s life, without exploring the deep-rooted reasons behind it.
The real Anna
Yet, what is often neglected about her story was that Anna Nicole, as we knew her, never really existed. Anna was a persona used by Vickie Lynn Hogan, her birth name, to achieve fame, fortune, and security for herself and her family. Eventually, it came crashing down in a tragedy that almost everyone predicted. Yet, it didn’t mean her efforts for success were in vain.
To say Vickie Lynn had a hard life would be an understatement, one could say that she never had a chance. Having grown up in an abusive Houston household, Hogan claims she was ‘beaten, whipped and raped’ under her mother and stepfather’s care.
This culminated in Vickie moving to Mexia, Texas to live with her aunt, eventually dropping out of high school and working at a local chicken shop. There, she met her abusive husband, Billy. They married at 17, and soon after she was pregnant with her first child, Daniel Wayne.
‘To say Hogan loved her child would be an understatement, she adored him, and he was the main impetus behind her transition to Anna Nicole Smith.’
To say Hogan loved her child would be an understatement, she adored him, and he was the main impetus behind her transition to Anna Nicole Smith, substituting her brunette locks with a bleach-blonde, styled hairdo. Having left Billy after he began abusing her and her son, Vickie Lynn turned to stripping in Houston.
Quickly, she began to earn a fair amount of money, allowing her to purchase breast implants, making her renowned for her curvier figure, earning her more money. Eventually, her stripping would attract the attention of billionaire Texan oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall.
Rise to fame
The connection between them would remain hidden for years. Vickie became renowned as a blonde-bombshell, emulating the likes of Monroe and Mansfield. Perhaps her most iconic images came from her 90s GUESS Jeans campaign, where she recreated the vintage look of Hollywood, cementing her within popular culture.
Playboy was also one of her biggest breaks, but it also damaged her image, due to the sheer amount of misogyny she faced. Her 90s campaign for H&M was also renowned, with her billboards causing several car accidents in major European cities in 1994. Smith’s image came crashing down upon the revelation of her marriage to Marshall, shifting public perceptions of her from classy model to gold-digging floozy.
Their eventual marriage caused an uproar, and Marshall was seen as a helpless old man, taken advantage of by a cunning vixen. Retrospectively, things were never as black and white as they seemed. Vickie Lynn lacked a father figure and was extremely emotional when Marshall eventually died. She was grateful for his care, the financial safety she provided for herself and her son.
For a woman who grew up poor and unloved, it was unsurprising that Marshall’s care would be so deeply appreciated by her. Vickie Lynn’s relationship with Marshall was not parasitical, it was mutually beneficial. She had financial security and affection, and Marshall got to enjoy himself in the care of a young, beautiful woman in the last years of his life.
Marshall was not stupid, he was a billionaire, who clearly had to have a sharp mind to be so successful, he would not be so naïve to forget what Vickie Lynn was getting out of him. All of this would eventually culminate in a legal case surrounding his will, that ended up in the Supreme Court.
The beginning of the end
Effectively, Marshall was the downfall of Anna Nicole, the character and by extension, Vickie Lynn, the human behind the persona. She was effectively ridiculed and labelled white trash. Her achievements were disregarded. Vickie Lynn was talentless in the eyes of the public, a simple scrounger who did not deserve to be famous. With increased pain from her breast implants, Vickie Lynn had developed a painkiller addiction, eventually becoming dependent on a plethora of drugs.
‘Of course, the world laughed, because when such behaviours appear in public, it is much easier to write them off as funny or embarrassing, rather than legitimate signs of a spiralling psyche.’
Spiralling mental health and addiction played into each other, eventually leading to odd behaviours displayed on a public stage. Some may remember her intoxicated speech at the 2004 Billboard Awards, where she struggled to string a sentence together. Of course, the world laughed, because when such behaviours appear in public, it is much easier to write them off as funny or embarrassing, rather than legitimate signs of a spiralling psyche.
The Anna Nicole Smith Show, considered a guilty pleasure, showcased her life, in all its intoxicated glory. Struggling to stay conscious or engage in conversation, her antics attracted many viewers, it was entertaining of course. Yet, many could see where the story was going, just nobody stepped in to stop it.
Luisa, who is 31, and runs an Anna fan page on Instagram, remembers watching the show when she was younger. ‘When I was little I thought it was quite funny, seeing her antics on screen, but now that I look back on it, it was actually really concerning.’ Luisa recalled to me how the show was filmed in a ‘comedic way’ in order to mask the serious issues that Anna was facing. ‘They portrayed her as a funny, clueless woman instead of someone was heavily drugged up.’
For many, her demise seemed inevitable. Having given birth to her daughter, whose paternity was disputed at the time, Vickie Lynn seemed to have a brief flash of hope. Yet, all was quickly silenced when, her son Daniel, passed away in the very hospital she had just given birth in, from an overdose of multiple prescription drugs.
This loss destroyed Vickie Lynn, and the line between Vickie and Anna became increasingly blurred. She began to depend heavily upon drugs and developed severely infected abscesses from growth hormone injections, that would raise her temperature to dangerous levels, keeping her sick and drug-dependent.
Those who enabled her provided her with the drugs she relied upon, and eventually, she would overdose at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in 2007. It was only natural that once her raison d’etre had died, Vickie would have nothing left to keep her going. Once Daniel died, so did Vickie.
People will rarely look at Vickie’s story in an admirable light, but I have to say, I think it’s a perspective that many people should consider. Anna Nicole Smith, as a persona, was everything that Vickie Lynn wanted, she allowed her to escape poverty, becoming socially mobile through the only means she could. She was able to provide for her son and become a model. She conformed to the beauty standards expected of her, surgically enhancing herself to further her career, despite the pain it would cause her.
Her ambition has to be admired and to label her a gold digger is quite frankly, reductive. A complex character, Vickie Lynn Hogan deserved better. Perhaps we should remember her for what she valued the most; her role as a mother who did what she could, to avoid a repeat of her own, loveless childhood. Yet, in the end she could never quite overcome it, no matter how hard she tried.