This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of Texas native Anna Nicole Smith, who captured the heart of America with her beautiful looks and the rags-to-riches tale of a dirt-poor small-town girl turned superstar.
On Tuesday, Buzzfeed published a profile detailing the late American icon’s rise to fame and the subsequent destruction of her image, her life and her health. Here are a few Texas highlights from the profile on Smith, who was born in Houston and raised in Mexia.
“…the high-fashion look didn’t count for much in Mexia, or even in Dallas or Houston, and Vickie Lynn needed a body that would help her survive the world she lived in, and maybe even escape it.”
Born Vickie Lynn Hogan, the model’s 6-foot figure and stunning looks were too much for the small town (Mexia’s population was only about 6,000 in the 1960s, when Smith was born). So she left Mexia when she was 18, a single mother recently divorced from her allegedly abusive husband, and she headed to Houston.
“Though inescapably connected with a commodity drawn up from deep in the ground, Houston belongs to the ocean.”
The profile details a part of the Lone Star State many Texans know well: “Dry farmland” giving way to “pink skies and sudden downpours” all-too-common on the land along the Gulf Coast.
“It’s a port city, and like all port cities, it is a place of transformation: a place where the skyline can change seemingly overnight, where fortunes can be won and lost in an instant, and where the people who kept you down all your life can’t keep you down anymore, because you can become whatever you say you are — or at least whatever the city will pay you to be.”
In Houston, Smith — still going by Vickie Lynn — found jobs at Walmart and Red Lobster in the mid-1980s.
“Houston was the implant capital of America…”
Now here’s a “today I learned…” story you can tell your friends about.
Silicone breast implants were invented in 1961 by two surgeons from Baylor University, and according to Buzzfeed, they were one of Houston’s hottest commodities in the 1980s, “almost as synonymous with Texas-sized dreams and desires as the lasso was.”
However, Houston also later became “the implant-related lawsuit capital of the world” in the early 1990s, as women sued manufacturers for faulty implants.
She became Anna Nicole Smith while dancing at a Houston strip club
After realizing Walmart and Red Lobster couldn’t pay the bills, Smith took a job dancing at the Executive Suite, a strip club near Houston Intercontinental Airport.
Buzzfeed reports the businessmen who frequented the club didn’t much care for Smith’s body, as she was “both too big and too small for the business of seduction.”
So Smith saved her money to get breast implants and buy herself the body of Anna Nicole Smith, saying goodbye to Vickie Lynn and landing a job at Rick’s, the “legendary Houston strip club that some claimed had singlehandedly popularized the silicone implant,” Buzzfeed writes.
She met J. Howard Marshall while dancing at Rick’s in 1988. Marshall, an elderly man who had gotten rich on the East Texas oil boom of the early 20th century, would later become Smith’s husband.
Read the rest of the profile, which goes into detail about Smith’s professional life, her personal relationships and her ties to her Texas family.