Anna Nicole Smith In Netflix’s ‘You Don’t Know Me,’ Explained: Who Is Dannielynn Birkhead?

Anna Nicole Smith, a name that became such a sensation throughout her career as a model, is most infamous for marrying an elderly, rich businessman in America. It was easy to point fingers at her and call her the famous word “gold digger,” but there was more to her than the image that was projected to the world. The woman was known to like plenty of attention, and this was extensively covered in the almost two-hour Netflix documentary on this starlet. Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me, directed by Ursula Macfarlane, was quick to let the audience know that the model-turned-actress had many things going her way and was on her way to becoming a vibrant celebrity. Like Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole passed away when the world was just on the cusp of discovering social media. With the craze that social media is right now, it would be hard to judge what other status and image would be in the public eye. Would she have embraced it as the world goes by? She might have. But who is to tell? The woman passed away at the age of 39, which left many people wondering about the kind of high-octane, frenzied life that she led.

The documentary brings together a mix of people from her life, talking about the life she led, and it is intercut with footage of old interviews of Anna speaking about her life. She claims she never wanted to speak in detail about her childhood life in any public forum, but she also did not shy away from talking about how she felt wronged by her mother, who was a police officer. Anna always claimed she had a difficult childhood, and her relationship with her mother pushed her to do things so that she could sustain herself. She also ended up getting married to that one person who did not pay any heed to her being the prettiest girl in town. Anna was pretty, and she knew it. She was aware of the attention her looks created in her town of Mexia, Texas. Anna Nicole, as a person, was not naive or docile. Instead, Anna always knew what she wanted from her life, and she pursued it until she got it. From her first marriage, she had a son named Daniel, who became her friend and companion throughout her life. Anna Nicole wanted some freedom from her life as a married person. Even though there is no mention of her first divorce, she took advantage of the only thing she knew would help her get enough money: her body and skin.

Anna never shamed herself into believing that joining strip clubs was beneath her. She wanted money to survive and raise her only son, and this was just one way for her to do that. She comes across as a woman who knows what sells and what doesn’t. Being aware of her beauty and what she could do with it came easily to her. Any of the observations above cannot be considered criticism. Anna requires a word of appreciation for pushing women to be confident and forge their path. The documentary claims Anna became a known personality in the club because of her confidence and beauty. Her best friend, Missy, too, was in awe of what Anna was capable of. Missy, in the documentary, talks about how Anna became her friend, confidante, and briefly her lover as well. Missy had nothing but good words to describe Anna in the beginning.

Anna became very famous after being on the cover of Playboy magazine in 1992, and the following year, 1993, she was made the playmate of the same magazine, which was popular for publishing adult content. The magazine was very popular, not just in America but all over the world as well. Anna was showered with many modeling assignments post she became the playmate, and there was no looking back for her from then on. Anna was a starlet from rural America who wanted to do big things for herself and make a name for herself. She was not wrong in having such ambitions for someone who comes from a background that is considered toxic. Anna claims to have had a toxic mother, which she conveyed to Missy, and Missy shared the fact that she also comes from an abusive family. Their shared trauma helps them bond. Anna, as claimed by everyone she knew who came out and spoke about her, was known for loving the attention she receives, and she is happy to go ahead with it to make way for her popularity. There is nothing wrong with it because the industry is such that without creating an impression, there is no progress for anyone.

Anna’s second marriage too, was considered a hoax by many. Anna made sure to make money for herself before she jumped onto the marriage bandwagon. It was considered a sham because her boyfriend was a man who was way older than her, a businessman named J. Howard Marshall, who came across Anna when she was working at the adult club. Before she became Anna Nicole Smith, her name was Vickie Lynn Hogan, Hogan being her father’s surname. She changed her name to Anna because she felt Anna as a name had a global ring to it that would fit her emerging career as a model. She wanted to be the supermodel who would walk on the runways, and Anna Nicole Smith, she felt, was the right name for her. She made this change because she had dreams and ambitions of her own before she settled down with her boyfriend, Howard Marshall. She did not want to be called a “gold digger,” because she felt she wasn’t. But no matter what anyone says, it would be hard to believe a beautiful young woman like Anna would be with a man as old as Howard for anything but money to keep her lifestyle in check and help her raise Daniel. Anna can be considered someone who jumped on the bandwagon when Howard proposed to her, but she made sure to let herself be a well-known personality and then marry Howard, which she did.

Anna’s relationship woes with Daniel as he grows older, and the fact that her husband’s son made sure to cut Anna off from his family money, putting her in a horrible financial state. Anna was in constant need of money to maintain the life that she leads, and with Howard Marshal also gone, the case goes in favor of his son Pierce, who wanted to make sure Anna was not given a dime. Anna claims the relationship she shared with her husband was purely based on love, and that’s why she deserves his money. Her fight for the money went nowhere because she did not get one ounce of her husband’s inheritance. Anna wanted the money because she claimed her husband had promised her half of his fortune would be given to her. Anna, as his widow, felt she was entitled to it, but wouldn’t this be again a case of a woman trying too hard to get the money that she claims is hers while all she can do is work again as a model, which would help her become famous once again? The paparazzi, too, made sure to write and publish pictures of her and talk endlessly about her on all the page 3’s and in gossip magazines. Anna was the kind of person who loved the attention she got from the paparazzi, and she knew what the readers wanted and the  kind of outcries the paparazzi also wanted. She gave them what she wanted and was content with the fact that good or bad, people talking about her would keep her relevant enough.

Anna becomes pregnant for the second time, and her way of gaining more attention creates speculation about who is the father of the child. Though she claims her lawyer and friend Howard Stern is the father of her child, multiple theories are floating around the scene that publicly discuss who the father is. Larry Birkhead, her photographer, makes the strong claim that he is Dannielynn’s biological father. This constant talk of the father of her child again put her in the spotlight of the media. As such, not much of the negative press affected her.

Anna was addicted to a prescription drug before and throughout her pregnancy, and unfortunately, her son Daniel got addicted to it as well. Daniel died of an overdose of the same drug. Anna’s grief at losing her older child was something that shook her to the core. Her sadness had no end, and she hoped she could live for her daughter, Dannielynn Birkhead. But Anna did not live long enough to see her daughter grow up; a few months later, her son’s death, Anna, also died of an overdose of prescribed medicines. Her friends and family are devastated, but they are glad to know she lived her life the way she wanted and never stopped herself from pursuing her dream, which is to be rich and famous. Anna, though, can be considered a flawed person because her idea of being famous was not exactly right, but she lives as such, always knowing the path she chose is wrong. It was later revealed that her mother never harassed her, and the lies that she sold to make sure Anna remained eye candy and a subject of discussion; keeping in mind the pain she went through, Anna sold off her friend’s story as her own just to be this person who could be pitied. The only right thing she did was keep her father at bay after meeting him because she insinuated her dad wanted to have intimate relations with her. Anna felt betrayed by her kin, but she moved on and lived her life.

Anna Nicole’s life years after her passing is still the talk of the town, and it is interesting to notice how her tragic end to her life easily mirrors the tragic end of the yesteryear actress Marilyn Monroe. Though unlike Marilyn, Anna did have a stable childhood; she made sure to be compared to the legendary actress, which is unfair. Yes, Anna had her struggles, but comparing her life to that of Marilyn Monroe in male-dominated Hollywood, Anna had a long way to go, but unfortunately, it was cut short by her addiction to painkillers. Anna Nicole Smith will never be forgotten, for she remains an enigma, and she lives on through her only child, Dannielynn Birkhead.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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