Barbara ‘B.’ Smith, a fashion model who went on to become a restaurateur, author and lifestyle guru, died Saturday at age 70, her husband announced in a Facebook post.
The cause was early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, he said.
The New York Daily News called Smith “one of the most important African-American style mavens of all time,” her website says.
Her signature tagline, “Whatever you do, do it with style!” has been on display at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Tributes poured in, including from NBC weather forecaster and personality Al Roker, who said Smith and her husband were “at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research for people of color.”
The broadcast talent and entrepreneurial spokeswoman was the winner of multiple awards, including a 2012 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance by Food Arts. She opened three B. Smith restaurants: on Theatre Row in Manhattan; in Sag Harbor, New York; and in Washington.
She appeared on the covers of over a dozen magazines and became one of the first black women on Mademoiselle’s cover, in July 1976. She appeared in TV commercials for Mercedes-Benz, and served as a spokeswoman for Verizon, Colgate-Palmolive and McCormick’s Lawry seasonings products, her website says.
Smith’s signature collection of bedding, tabletop and bath products debuted at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2001 as the first line from a black woman to be sold at a nationwide retailer. The line’s retail partners now include Belk, Burlington, Home Depot, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Stein Mart.
Barbara Elaine Smith was born in Everson, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, in 1949. Her mother worked as a maid and her father as a steelworker. She began modeling in the mid-1960s.
Smith revealed in a 2014 interview with CBS that she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s the year before. “I think the future’s going to be fine,” Smith said at the time. “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.”
She and her husband Dan Gasby, a former TV executive, worked to raise awareness of the disease and its effects. She’s survived by Gasby and a stepdaughter, Dana.
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