With her famously breathless voice, platinum blond hair, knockout figure, and plucked-from-the-country innocent charm, many considered Anna Nicole Smith the second coming of Marilyn Monroe. Anna Nicole embraced the comparison, telling Playboy that her ambition was to “be the new Marilyn Monroe.”
Indeed, Anna Nicole was ambitious, as she famously moved beyond her rural hometown, adopted a more Hollywood-friendly moniker, engaged in controversial marriages, become a talked-about tabloid sensation, and ultimately died too soon, just like her idol.
Anna Nicole was born Vickie Lynn Hogan in the small town of Mexia, Texas. After working odd jobs and splitting from her first husband, whom she married at 17, she was hungry for bigger things. She submitted her photos to Playboy, and in May 1992 she made her debut as Playmate of the Month.
The cover hurled Anna Nicole into the fast world of modeling. She quickly replaced supermodel Claudia Schiffer as a Guess Jeans model with a campaign that made both her a household name and brought a lot of attention to the brand. The new release of the images, which spun a modern version of old Hollywood, was highly anticipated at the time. She quickly took roles in comedy hits like The Hudsucker Proxy and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.
Anna Nicole continued to grace Playboy’s cover as Playmate of the Year in June 1993, in a Valentine-themed image in February 1994, and for a February 2001 cover in which she was dressed as her idol—wearing pink strapless satin and dripping in jewels, just as Marilyn Monroe did in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The cover caption for the issue read, “Anna Nicole Smith: Playboy’s $450,000,000 Playmate.” The figure alluded to the alleged fortune she was to amass after courts settled the estate of her late octogenarian oil tycoon husband J. Howard Marshall, whom she had married—to much fanfare and gossip—just one year before.
In 2002 Anna Nicole capitalized on the reality TV wave, staring in her own reality show, The Anna Nicole Show, which ran for a year. While she suffered personal setbacks over the subsequent years, the birth of her daughter, just one year before her death in 2007, added a new chapter to a special kind of legacy. In 2014, Anna Nicole’s daughter, Dannielynn Berkhead, starred in her own Guess campaign, modeling for Guess Kids at the age of six.