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Anna Nicole Smith's Former Lover Claims She Secretly Married Her

Missy Byrum met the future Guess model when they worked together at a Texas strip club.

During the height of her fame, the late model and reality star Anna Nicole Smith was often seen more as a punchline than an actual person, known best for her "dumb blonde" persona and her marriage to a man over 60 years her senior. Now, the world is getting a more in-depth look at her life in the new Netflix documentary Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me, which premiered May 16. In light of the film's release, some of those closest to Smith were also interviewed by People, including the star's friend Melissa "Missy" Byrum, who says that they were actually lovers and even were secretly married before she wed billionaire J. Howard Marshall.

In the interview, Byrum reveals how she and Smith met, how deep their relationship became, and why she knew the romance wouldn't last. Read on to learn more.

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They met in the late '80s.

An old photo of Anna Nicole Smith from "You Don't Know Me"

Byrum told People that she first met Smith (who was born Vicky Lynn Hogan) at the Houston, Texas strip club where they both worked in the late '80s. Similarly, Smith met her further husband Marshall at a strip club where she worked in 1991.

"From the minute I met her, she always told me she was gonna end up being a famous model," Byrum told the outlet of her friend. "And she always told me she was gonna die young." In the documentary, she also says that Smith asked her to call her "Nicki" because she didn't like her name.

Byrum explained that Smith was already developing her new persona around the time that they met. "She started to manifest the character of Anna Nicole back then," Byrum said. "She would even pretend to be stupid when she was dancing. I watched her do it all the time. She learned stripping that guys like to think you're dumb if you're that pretty."

At this point, Smith was married to Billy Smith, who she wed in 1985 when they were both teenagers. They welcomed their son, Daniel Smith, in 1986. Smith and her first husband officially divorced in 1993, though they had already been separated.

Byrum says that they fell in love.

Missy Byrum in "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me"

Byrum's relationship with Smith wasn't platonic. "We became lovers, you know?" she told People, clarifying that their relationship wasn't comprised of under-the-influence hookups. "And I mean real sober lovers—it was a conscious thing … She said that she loved me."

And the feeling was mutual. "I was in love with her," Byrum says in the Netflix film. "She was fun. She had a big heart, and she was kind. She really was kind."

Smith's modeling career took off in the early '90s, particularly with her Playboy cover in 1992. Byrum said that she traveled with Smith and helped take care of her son. "Nicki was getting more dependent on me because I'm taking care of Daniel while she's gone," Bryum explained. "And then I'm traveling with her all the time and so we're together all the time."

She added, "We'd now been through some bad relationships, both of us, with men. We decided that we just didn't need men. We were gonna raise Daniel together."

Another friend of Smith's, fashion designer Pol' Atteu, commented on her sexual orientation in the People article. "I would say she was fluid," he said. "We just did not have a name for it back then."

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They decided to marry.

Anna Nicole Smith circa 1993
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

According to Byrum, Smith proposed to her in 1993, and they had a wedding ceremony, which was not legally binding. (Same-sex marriage did not become legal in Texas until it became legal in the entire country in 2015.)

"She gave me a set of wedding rings and we got married in the backyard by the pool with champagne," Byrum said. She also told People that the only guest was their housekeeper.

This wedding took place one year before Smith married Marshall, but they were already in a relationship at the time. According to Interview, Smith had turned down proposals from Marshall before finally saying yes.

Byrum wrote a book about Smith.

Missy Byrum in "Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me"

In 2008, Byrum published the book When You Wished Upon A Star: The Evolution of Anna Nicole Smith, which was co-written with Monique Glassford. The official synopsis of the book explains that it tells the story of Smith's life from 1987 to 1993, when she and Byrum were best friends.

Byrum's author bio (via AbeBooks) notes that she "worked on J. Howard Marshall s payroll as Anna Nicole Smith's personal consultant and manager, but her relationship with Anna was unlike any other individual." It does not mention that they were lovers, but explains, "They immediately became best friends and roommates. Over the next few years Anna and Missy were inseparable. Melissa is the only individual who was present during many behind the scenes happenings that occurred, before, during, and after Anna's meteoric rise to stardom."

She knew their romantic relationship wouldn't last.

Anna Nicole Smith at the premiere of "Be Cool" in 2005
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

Byrum told People that she knew her relationship with Smith was doomed from the start.

"I was not her first female lover," Byrum said. "But I knew it would not last. She needed more love than any one human being could give her."

She continued, "[Smith] was very much like a man when she made a conquest. You were a notch on her belt and then she's onto the next one. She had that prowess where she wanted new stuff. And once you gave into her, once she conquered you, you just weren't a challenge anymore."

Smith and Marshall were married for just over a year before he died in 1995 at age 90. It was widely believed that she married him for his money, but Smith maintained that she really loved him, as do her friends and family interview in the documentary and in the People article.

Smith went on to have relationships with other people, including photographer Larry Birkhead with whom she welcomed her second child, Dannielynn Birkhead, in September 2006. Daniel died of a drug overdose only three days after Dannielynn was born. Smith died five months later, also of an accidental overdose.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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