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Divorced as a teen, widowed at 27 and now dead at 39, Anna Nicole Smith lived a life worthy of a soap opera. Known for her fierce drive, the former Mexia, Texas, native (who was born Vickie Lynn Hogan) began her transformation into a Hollywood star more than two decades ago.
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SMALL TOWN, BIG DREAMS
At 17, the high school dropout marries Billy Smith, a 16-year-old cook at Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken, the hometown restaurant where she worked. The pair have a son, Daniel, in Jan. 1986, and divorce a little over a year later.
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FROM NOBODY TO SOME BUNNY
Just four years after making $60 a week as a Wal-Mart checkout girl, the single mom sends nude photos of herself to Playboy and lands a photo shoot. She makes her cover debut in March and is named Miss May 1992. She gets an even bigger honor the following year when she's named Playmate of the Year.
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LOVE STRUCK AGAIN
At Houston's White Dove wedding chapel, Smith, 26, marries 89-year-old oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall II on June 27, 1994. Smith met the twice-divorced Marshall, whose fortune is later estimated at $1.6 billion, while working as a topless dancer at a Houston strip club in 1991. Following Marshall's death 13 months later, Smith battles his son over her husband's estate.
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Smith lands her own namesake reality TV show on E! in 2002, starring her son Daniel, assistant Kim Walther and lawyer Howard K. Stern. It premiered Aug. 4, 2002, drawing in 4 million viewers.
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Named spokeswoman for the diet supplement Trimspa in February 2004, Smith announces on her own E! special that she shed 69 lbs. using the over-the-counter drug. Smith debuts her new svelte figure that fall during a loopy appearance at the American Music Awards, asking the audience, "Like my body?" before stumbling offstage.
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While still mourning Daniel, Smith and longtime lawyer Howard K. Stern take comfort in daughter Dannielynn (born Sept. 7, 2006), whom Stern has called their "one ray of hope."
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A MOTHER'S LOVE
The sudden loss of her beloved son Daniel, 20, on Sept. 10, 2006 shatters Smith, sending her into seclusion. "She's overwhelmed," her attorney at the time, Michael Scott, told PEOPLE shortly after the tragedy. "She's trying to come to grips with the depths of her despair."
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TWO OF A KIND
Through it all, the one constant in Smith's life has been companion Stern (here, attending a boxing match together in January). Growing even closer in the wake of Daniel's death, the couple announced their love to the world last year – exchanging vows in a Sept. 28 commitment ceremony in the Bahamas.
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PLACE AMONG THE STARS
Smith (here, arriving at an awards show in 2004) once told Playboy in her Playmate questionnaire: "I want to be the new Marilyn Monroe." And like the young Norma Jean, the buxom bombshell set her sight firmly on Hollywood. Smith told PEOPLE in '93 that she deserved her shot at stardom: "I want it so bad. I've tried so hard my whole life. I'm kindhearted, and I give, give, give. I think maybe it's my time to receive."