The Weird, Wild and Tragically Short Life of Anna Nicole Smith

To put it simply, Birkhead wants to keep the best part of Anna Nicole’s legacy intact for their daughter and protect Dannielynn as much as is humanly possible, not just from a fate resembling her mom’s, but from the pitfalls of the wrong kind of media exposure.

Smith’s pop culture legacy, meanwhile, has obviously been more than that of a striking model-actress-reality-star who died too young. Her story had so many stranger-than-fiction twists, it proved ripe for the retelling, be it via TV movies like 2007’s The Anna Nicole Smith Story starring Willa Ford or 2013’s Anna Nicole on Lifetime; the 2011 opera Anna Nicole; or the 2012 documentary Addicted to Fame, featuring disturbing footage compiled during the making of Illegal Aliens.

But for the better part of a decade there was an audience that had no idea what to do with Smith when she was alive, that only sat back and watched her decline, not knowing what it was exactly that they were watching, and probably figuring that nothing truly bad would happen in the end. Yet Anna Nicole Smith’s story didn’t have a happy ending. Instead it remains a cautionary reminder that there’s always a real person on the other side of that lens.

“The thing about Anna was…it was almost like a split personality,” Birkhead said. “Because when the camera was going, she was a whole different thing…that was more, to me, an act than it was the real person, who she was.”

(Originally published on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, at 5 a.m. PT.)