Back to the beginning. Anna Nicole Smith may be gone, but she is survived by Larry Birkhead and their daughter, Dannielynn. The father-daughter team recently returned to the Bahamas, where Danielynn was born, and they celebrated the late star’s 50th birthday. The duo honored her legacy and invited Us Weekly to walk down memory lane with them.
“This trip back for Dannielynn is kind of special because she doesn’t really know a whole lot about the place where she was born,” Birkhead, 44, told Us Weekly’s Managing Editor Brody Brown.
But for the locals, Dannielynn’s return to the island is a happy homecoming. “When Dannielynn was little and I used to bring her here, the people used to come out screaming, ‘The people’s princess Dannielynn is here,’ cause it was such a big deal about her birth here, and they embrace her and they come up and ask for pictures and stuff all the time.”
Smith died after an accidental drug overdose in 2007, months after Dannielynn’s birth. Birkhead fought Smith’s former lover and lawyer, Howard K. Stern, over custody of now 11-year-old Dannielynn. Birkhead was eventually granted full custody after the DNA test confirmed he is the little girl’s biological father.
During his emotional interview with Us Weekly, Birkhead opened up about Smith’s life and legacy. “She was charitable and she did a lot of things for people that people don’t know,” he revealed. “I’m still getting these cards from kids that she supported overseas and they didn’t know she was Anna Nicole, but they’d come to have found out later.”
Throughout their trip, Birkhead and Dannielynn revisited locations on the island that harbor special meaning for their family. Birkhead showed his daughter the courthouse where he fought for sole custody of her. “I remember coming out of this door right here and they said, ‘You can take Dannielynn home to Kentucky or wherever you’re gonna move.’ And I came out, I was so happy,” he recalled, noting that the court was surrounded by media covering the event.
The duo also swam with dolphins, strolled on the sand and spent time at an aquarium. Birkhead shared with Us that he is “overly protective” of Danielynn, a budding YouTuber. “Dannielynn is more interested in wanting to be a YouTuber and make her own videos, so those are the types of things that she’s interested in,” he said. “I still have to warn her that, you know, your friend might have a YouTube account, but if you have a YouTube account that’s different, because people know who you are.”
Birkhead, who has shielded Danielynn from the limelight, considers parenting to be his highest priority. “Sometimes you feel like a bodyguard, sometimes you feel like a chauffuer,” he joked. “It depends on what the day is. But my job is dad and I think I’ve done a pretty good job. She’s adjusted to it and she’s just a normal kid.”
Watch the heartfelt video above to see Birkhead and Danielynn explore the Bahamas. For more on the story, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly on stands now.