Her highly publicized marriage to oil tycoon J. Howard
Marshall, 63 years her senior, resulted in a lengthy and ongoing
legal battle over his estate following his death. Her case,
Marshall v. Marshall, reached the U.S. Supreme Court in
February, 2006, on a narrow constitutional issue over the right
of a federal judge to intervene in a state probate case. On May
1, 2006, Smith won the Supreme Court case 9-0.
Anna Nicole Smith was born in Houston, Texas. When she was very young, her family moved to Mexia, Texas a small town 127 km (79 mi) south of Dallas. Her father left the family when Anna was a child and she was raised by her mother and aunt. While growing up, Anna told others that she wanted to be the next Marilyn Monroe. Smith worked at a fried chicken restaurant in her late teens, where she is rumored to have married an unidentified cook. In 1985, she married Billy Smith at the age of 17. That same year, she gave birth to her first child, Daniel Smith. In 1987, she divorced Billy and became a single mother.
In her early 20s, before becoming an exotic dancer, Anna Nicole Smith worked at a variety of low-paying jobs while supporting her son Daniel. While working as an exotic dancer at a nightclub in Houston under various names including Nikki, Robin and Anna Nicole, she met oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall, a frequent customer of the strip club. With Marshall’s money, Smith had cosmetic surgery to increase her breast size, paid for photographers, publicists, wardrobe, living expenses, hair and make-up stylists, bodyguards, talent agents, attorneys and a host of other support staff.
Smith's career took off after appearing on the cover of the March 1992 issue Playboy magazine wearing a low-cut evening gown. She secured a contract to replace supermodel Claudia Schiffer in the Guess? jeans ad campaign in a series of sultry black and white photographs. Smith then posed nude for Playboy as the May 1992 centerfold (under her given name). Tall, blonde, s--y and zaftig, Smith was subsequently called "the next Marilyn Monroe" in press reports, a comparison she encouraged by wearing a hair style reminiscent of Monroe's, as well as her trademark white dress. Smith was chosen to be the 1993 Playmate of the Year. She finally settled on the name "Anna Nicole Smith" by the time of her PMOY pictorial.
Smith married her second husband, oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall on June 27, 1994. She was 26; he was 89.
According to E!'s profile on her, Anna Nicole had other relationships and was generally indifferent to Marshall, with whom she never lived. Her alleged romantic interests included bodybuilder Clay Spires, Scott Baio, John Travolta's nephew Rikki, and real estate mogul Jonathan McManus. J. Howard's nurse told E! that Anna never visited him as his condition became terminal, and was not with him when he died.
Within weeks after J. Howard's death on August 4, 1995, Anna squared off against his son, E. Pierce Marshall, for half of her late husband's $1.6 billion estate. Smith joined forces with J. Howard's other son, James Howard Marshall III, whom the elder Howard had disowned. Howard III claimed J. Howard verbally promised him a portion of his estate; like Smith, Howard III was also left out of J. Howard's will, which he updated weeks after their marriage. The case has gone on for more than a decade, producing a highly publicized court battle in Texas and several judicial decisions that have gone both for and against Smith in that time.
Smith claimed J. Howard verbally promised her half of his estate if she married him. In September, 2000, a Los Angeles bankruptcy judge awarded Smith $449,754,134. Pierce appealed, and in July 2001, Houston judge Mike Wood vacated that award and ordered Anna Nicole to pay over $1 million in fees and expenses to Pierce's legal team. In March 2002, she was awarded $88 million. In December 2004, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the March 2002 decision, saying that Smith is not one of J. Howard Marshall's heirs. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in September of 2005 to hear the appeal of that decision. The Bush Administration subsequently directed the Solicitor General to intercede on Smith's behalf out of an interest to protect federal court jurisdiction in state probate disputes.
After months of waiting, Anna Nicole and her step-son Pierce learned of the Supreme Court's decision on May 1, 2006. The justices unanimously decided in favor of Smith. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, stating that Smith should get a chance to pursue her claims in federal court. (See Marshall v. Marshall.)
This decision does not give Anna Nicole Smith a portion of her husband's estate, it merely reaffirms that she has the right to fight for it in federal court. It is expected that the long-running legal drama will not end any time soon, because many remaining issues need to be decided upon remand.
On June 20, 2006, E. Pierce Marshall died at the age of 67 after an infection. The future of the case is uncertain.
During the course of the litigation, Smith's career stalled. Though her roles in The Hudsucker Proxy and Naked Gun 33 1/3, both in 1994, were highly publicized, her acting career did not take off. She was instead relegated to low-budget softcore porn movies such as Skyscraper and became regular fodder for the tabloids due to her legal battle over her nonagenerian husband's estate, her increasing weight, and her reportedly bizarre behavior. In 2002, she was given her own reality TV series on the E! cable television network; The Anna Nicole Show which focused on her personal and private life in the manner of other "reality" shows, such as ratings hit The Osbournes. The show's debut was the highest rated show on the network, but critics blasted the show and ratings dropped with each successive week. However, the show achieved a kind of camp or cult status as many fans found humor in Smith's absurd antics. The show was cancelled in February 2004, due to "creative differences," but has retained some life in reruns and on DVD releases.
In an interview on Late Night with Conan O'Brien she was asked what her "Playmate diet" consisted of. She instantly replied, "fried chicken." In October, 2003, she became a spokesperson for TrimSpa, which helped her to lose a reported 69 lb (31 kg).
In November 2004, Anna Nicole Smith appeared as a presenter at the American Music Awards and garnered attention because of her strange behavior. During her live appearance, she made cryptic, murmured comments about her body and TrimSpa. This incident became comedic material for the rest of the presenters and became part of the news the next day. Tabloids speculated that she was under the influence of pills or some other controlled substance. Her representatives explained that she was in pain due to a series of grueling work-outs and had difficulty reading the prompter due to being nearsighted and not wearing her contact lenses. After reportedly losing some 80 pounds, Smith returned to her form from the early 1990's.
In March 2005, at the first MTV Australia Video Music Awards in Sydney's Luna Park, she spoofed Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction by pulling down her dress to reveal both breasts, each covered with the MTV logo.
She has also been featured in advertisements for the animal-rights group PETA. Spoofing Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" segment in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a 2004 ad states "Fur-free blondes are best." In another ad the following year, Anna posed with her dogs in a campaign against Iams dogfood for their alleged cruelty to animals. As of 2006, Smith has given up modeling, though she remains a spokesperson for TrimSpa.
On June 1st, 2006, Anna Nicole Smith announced in a video on her official website that she is 5 months pregnant. Photojournalist Larry Birkhead is rumored to be the father of the child.
Appearances in Playboy special editions
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