Rest in Power, B. Smith!

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B. Smith, who set the table for Black people in the food, style and home decor arenas, died yesterday from Alzheimer’s disease in her Long Island, New York home. She was 70. Her husband, Dan Gasby, announced her death in a Facebook post.

Smith was born Barbara Elaine Smith August 24, 1949 in Everson, Pa., near Pittsburgh. Her mother was a domestic worker and her father worked in a steel mill, but she had a vision that landed her around the world, impacting millions. Smith started as a model for Ebony Fashion Fair. She signed with Wilhelmina modeling agency and in 1976 became the first Black model to be featured on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine.

Smith made a couple of appearances on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, one time making raspberry custard with Fred Rogers. During that episode, she taught children the importance of their washing hands.

B. Smith With Style, a syndicated half-hour show, debuted in 1997 and featured home decor and cooking segments. In 1986, she opened her first restaurant, B. Smith’s, on Eighth Avenue at 47th Street in Manhattan. She also had restaurants in Sag Harbor, Long Island and in the historic Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Smith’s interest in decor led to the development of her first home collection, which debuted at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2001. She launched a line of serveware there in 2004. In spring 2007, Smith debuted her first furniture collection with the La-Z-Boy company Clayton Marcus.

B. Smith authored three books concentrating on recipes and presentation: B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends (1995), B. Smith’s Rituals and Celebrations (1999) and B. Smith Cooks Southern Style (2009). Her fourth book, Before I Forget, was released in 2016 with her husband, Dan Gasby, chronicling her battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Smith, who was married briefly to HBO exec Don Anderson, married Gasby in 1992. Gasby, who was a marketing executive and executive producer of the Essence Awards, reported Smith missing from their Southamption home in June 2014. She was discovered a day later in a cafe in Midtown Manhattan, but it was the public beginning of her journey with Alzheimer’s disease.

Gasby, who is five years Smith’s junior, faced criticism when he revealed in December of 2018 that he was in a relationship with Alex Lerner and he had moved her into the home he shared with Smith. In January of 2019, The Washington Post published a profile on the throuple. 

Smith will be remembered for her groundbreaking style and business savvy and creating a lane for those to follow.

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