Anna Nicole Smith's Decade of Life After Death - Rolling Stone
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Anna Nicole Smith’s Decade of Life After Death

From exploitative documentaries to a hit opera and lots of drag queens, a look at the ultimate gold-digger’s legacy

At five years old, Anna Nicole Smith was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. But instead of telling her parents she wanted to be like the famous bombshell, she said she wished to be her. And at the age of 39, Smith got that wish. Ten years ago today, the mother, model, reality star and figure of constant, often-perverse fascination, died of a prescription drug overdose.

Smith – born in Texas as Vickie Lynn Hogan – began turning heads in the early 1990s, first as the March 1992 Playboy cover girl and later with a series of now-iconic Guess ads that featured her vamping just like her sister-in-tragedy, Norma Jean herself. Smith landed bit parts in films like A Hudsucker Proxy and one Naked Gun sequel, and made herself a household name when she took the son of her late husband – oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall II – to court, claiming that she hadn't married the man six decades her senior for his money. 

Yet Smith's true legacy lies in the fact that she was one of the first reality television powerhouses. Through her reality sitcom The Anna Nicole Smith Show, which featured her going to the dentist and participating in eating contests, she turned D-list celebrity status into A-list television. When Smith appeared on awards shows, like when she introduced Kanye West at the 2004 American Music Awards, she hammed it up with salacious, radically unselfconscious – albeit entirely intoxicated – asides. Couple that with her bad movies and talk show appearances, and Smith's fame dominated the sphere of tabloid culture, paving the way for everyone from Paris Hilton to Kim Kardashian. While she's been gone for a decade, she continues to live on past the grave through film tributes, lookalikes and even an opera. Here's a timeline of how her legacy has unfolded over the past 10 years. 

April 2016

Last year, comedian Margaret Cho released a tongue-in-cheek tribute video dedicated to her late friend. In it, Cho arrives at a mansion for a celebration of Smith's life and spirit, and finds that it's chock-full of Smith lookalikes drinking, swimming in the pool and, of course, popping pills together. On her site, Cho said the piece was "a requiem for Anna Nicole Smith that is as beautiful and quirky as she was. It's my version of ‘Candle in the Wind,’ and about the archetype of someone who is too good for this world that exists in all of us." 

Anna Nicole Smith

February 2017

Last week, Inside Edition aired a special episode in anticipation of the 10-year anniversary of Smith's death, featuring her daughter, Dannielynn Birkhead. She's now 10 herself, and from the looks of it, seems to share Smith's same goofy spirit. In the segment, the camera crew goes inside the Kentucky home where she lives with her father, Larry Birkhead, a photographer. And while Smith may not be there in person, she's everywhere in spirit, from a shimmering evening dress of hers on display in the hall to a poignant self-portrait she painted for her daughter, of herself pregnant with Dannielynn. More than anything, the segment is a reminder that Smith, while she led a sordid life, was savagely sweet, funny, and leaves behind a family and fans who wish she was still around to make them laugh one more time.                                

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