Barbara “B.” Smith, a model, restaurateur, and lifestyle guru previously dubbed the “Black Martha Stewart,” has died at the age of 70. Smith passed away on Saturday after battling early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2013.
Smith’s husband, Dan Gasby, announced the news of Smith’s death in a Facebook post, noting that Smith passed away “peacefully” in the couple’s Long Island, NY home. Smith was stepmother to Gasby’s daughter, Dana.
“Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.’s dazzling and unforgettable smile,” Gasby wrote in the post.
A native of Pennsylvania, Smith began her career as a fashion model and the second African-American woman on Mademoiselle’s cover in July 1976. Over the course of her modeling career, she graced 15 covers. She went on to become an accomplished chef and restaurateur, author, and lifestyle guru. Smith also hosted the nationally syndicated talk-show B. Smith With Style in the mid-90s.
In 2001, her housewares line The B. Smith with Style Home Collection debuted at Bed Bath & Beyond, becoming the first line from an African-American woman to be sold at a nationwide retailer. According to her official biography, Smith’s signature tagline “Whatever you do, do it with style!” has been on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
In the last few years of her life, Smith was open about her battle with Alzheimer’s and worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the disease and its effects, particularly on those in the African-American community.
“I’m going to do my best to make it work out for me, and for as many people that I can possibly help, too,” Smith told CBS News in 2014. In 2016, with her husband and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson, Smith authored Before I Forget, to detail her personal journey in addition to sharing practical advice and lessons learned.
Those closest to Smith are paying tribute, including the Today show’s Al Roker, who interviewed her back in 2015 about her diagnosis.
“Just so sad to hear about the passing of legendary fashion model, chef, restaurateur, lifestyle icon and magazine publisher, B Smith,” Roker wrote. “70 years old, she and her husband, Dan Gasby were at the forefront of #alzheimers #research for people of color. Love to them and daughter, Dana.”
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