The Making of a Sex Symbol, 1993

How Mexia’s Anna Nicole Smith became the model of the moment.

It takes a lot to distract Hollywood’s power players when they gather for lunch at Le Dome on Sunset Boulevard. Tight-skirted starlets stroll past their tables ever day, but the middle-aged producers, directors, and agents barely notice. Bent over their $25 entrées, they whisper about movie deals like Roman conspirators.

On this sunny May afternoon, however, history is about to be made. As the doors of Le Dome open, the maître d’ bows slightly for famous model Anna Nicole Smith—formerly Vickie Smith, waitress at Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken in Mexia (population: 6,933). In Mexia, eighty miles south of Dallas, Vickie smith was a poor little wild girl who dropped out of high school after getting into a fistfight. In Hollywood, Anna Nicole Smith is fifteen minutes late for her lunch reservation because she has spent the morning at Fred Hayman’s on Rodeo Drive, purchasing a $1,400 dress.

This way, Miss Smith,” the maître d’ says, leading the young woman, her linebacker-size bodyguard, and two publicists into the dining room. The world-weary Hollywood types glance at the entourage, and suddenly the conversation stops—totally stops. Smith, in a black-and-white vertically striped bodysuit, clears a path through the closely packed tables as if some invisible force field surrounds her. The dealmakers, men and women, swivel in their seats. Tom Snyder, the talk show host, rises halfway out of his chair to get a better look. A movie producer eating with actress JoBeth Williams murmurs, “Who could that be?”

Hi, y’all,” Smith says as she wiggles past a table of men, her voice so country that it makes Ann Richards sound like Rose Kennedy. Followed by a dozen pairs of eyes, she sits down at a reserved table. “Yes, sir, I want a salad,” she purrs at a waiter. “But don’t put any of that green grass or fancy stuff in there—just lettuce and tomatoes. You people out here don’t know how to make a real salad.” She purses her lips together and gives the waiter a flirty pout.

Hollywood has seen its share of great blondes, but it has never seen a woman like Anna Nicole Smith, for she looms over the city like a Statue of Liberty. She is a magnificent Amazonian creature: 155 pounds and six feet three inches tall in her very high heels, with flawless skin, perfectly sculpted features, and breasts bigger than the state of Rhode Island. For that reason, she has been plucked from Texas working-class obscurity to become an immediately recognizable face. Although successful models are usually known for their thin waiflike looks, Smith has made her mark precisely because she has one of the most voluptuous figures on earth. Almost overnight she landed a coveted international modeling job with Guess? jeans (previously held by Claudia Schiffer) owing to her ability to show lots and lots of cleavage while giving the camera the kind of deep, smoldering look that suggests she can handle any kind of trouble that comes her way. In its ads, Guess? doesn’t even bother to show Smith in jeans. Instead, she poses with the strap of her dress falling off her shoulder or with her shirt halfway unbuttoned. The ads have this other-time look to them, like the pinups of old movie stars. If it is true, as Mae West once said, that a curved line is the loveliest distance between two points, then Smith is the world’s loveliest woman. She has curves so big you could ride a motorcycle over them.

Today, in some artistic circles, 25-year-old Smith has become an object of enormous curiosity. In the past six months she has been selected as Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Year, starred in Bryan Ferry’s new music video, and completed a small part at Tim Robbins’ girlfriend in The Hudsucker Proxy, an upcoming movie by acclaimed filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. Although she has never had a single acting lesson, directors have sent her piles of scripts. Although she doesn’t sing, a record producer has offered to help her make a country music album. No one, it seems, can look at this unschooled, uncultured small-town girl without wondering whether she might turn into the next Marilyn Monroe—an idea she doesn’t discourage, since she has collected every Marilyn Monroe movie on videocassette and has memorized all of her lines. “I can just relate to her,” Smith says breathlessly. “Especially after I got my body—then I really could relate to her.”

Obviously, Smith possesses the grand bubble-headed manner that is a hallmark of some of Hollywood’s greatest blondes, from Jean Harlow and Judy Holiday to Monroe herself. When asked, for example, who her favorite author is, she replies, “The people who write my favorite soaps.” When asked if she is a feminist, she says, “I don’t understand that question.” Staring at a seafood dish ordered by one of her lunch companions, she says wistfully, “Did y’all know that lobsters have one mate their whole life? Yes! And when someone takes that mate away, the other lobster dies.”

While many churchgoing Mexia citizens are no doubt embarrassed that Smith’s body topography has given the town reams of national publicity—in her Playboy video, she poses in front of a Mexia Chamber of Commerce sign—others see a kind of fairy-tale quality in her success. Regardless of how much further she goes, Vickie smith’s transformation into Anna Nicole Smith is indeed the classic fable about luck, beauty, and show biz.

Lord, if you could have known how poor that girl was,” says Kay Beall, Smith’s aunt. “I used to slip her some of my food-stamp money just so she could buy herself some candy.”

Smith’s parents divorced following her birth in November 1967, after which time she alternately lived with her mother—a sheriff’s deputy in a town near Houston—and Beall, who worked at the state school for mentally retarded children in Mexia. (At the time, Smith didn’t know her father.) By age fifteen, she was living permanently with Beall, along with three cousins, in Beall’s tiny two-bedroom frame home. Life there

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