Anna Nicole Smith was the consummate woman, if that means only the most torturous and futile elements of being female. And her quest to fit the most extreme version of the beauty ideal not only didn't make her happy — it essentially killed her.
New York's exhaustive story recapping Smith's life, thirty-nine years of obscene and florid drama, draws on "dozens of hours of interviews, the reading and distillation of every book written about Smith (no fewer than seven), two trips each to Texas and California, and the review of close to 10,000 pages of court records, including depositions with dozens of characters," according to a rep for the magazine.
Her mother, Virgie, gave birth to Smith at 16, product of her second marriage, which ended after Smith's father "pleaded guilty to the statutory rape of Virgie's 10-year-old sister." Of Virgie and her third husband, Smith would later say, "You want to hear all the things she did to me? All the things she let my [stepfather] do to me, or let my brother do to me or my sister? All the beatings and the whippings and the rape? That's my mother." By the time she was an adult, Smith was "almost illiterate."
She apparently had acute body dysmorphia; though she was obsessed with being seen as beautiful and worthy of male love, at her first Playboy shoot "she was terrified, unable to take her clothes off." She'd achieved the beauty ideal with a total of three pints of fluid in her breasts.
Her elderly Texas oilman boyfriend and later husband's money kept Smith in 14-karat gold nails, and his attention was adoring; her Guess campaign made her beauty iconic. But pleasure appears to have been rare:
Behind his back, though, she continued to see an older butch lesbian she'd been dating off and on for several years, as well as several men. Sex occupied an odd purpose in her life: She seemed often to give it for reasons that had little to do with her personal pleasure, and when she had it she typically demanded it take place in the dark. She wrote in her diary, "I hate for men to want sex all the time. I hate sex anyway."
Later, she wrote her mother,
"I'm not happy," she wrote, "never have been really. Very lonely mom. I no how you've felt with men!!" She told her she was alone but for Daniel, her "pried and joy." She said she'd recently had a stress-induced miscarriage that "nearly killed me." She planned on trying again. "I don't love anyone but I'll find someone just to get preg and not let him no. Is that so bad. I don't think so. Men are pigs."
She did eventually get pregnant, but she lost other child, Daniel, to a toxic combination of medications. Videos of her C-section, along with photos from a "commitment ceremony," went for at least $1.2 million. Later, her use, and abuse, of painkillers was linked in part to massive infections she suffered, "the product of abscesses within the tissue of her buttocks from her vitamin and growth-hormone injections." The injections were intended to make her lose weight. The prescription drugs eventually killed her. And almost all of it happened in television or in print.
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