B Smith, one among the country’s initial high-profile black models who went on to become an author, restaurateur and lifestyle ace, has died after a seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 70.
Dan Gasby, Smith’s husband and caretaker, that she died Saturday at home in Long Island, New York.
“It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith,” Gasby wrote, thanking doctors, caretakers, friends, and fans who “helped us make B. comfortable in her final days. … Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.’s dazzling and unforgettable smile.”
Smith began her career as a model with the Wilhemina agency before happening to host the syndicated broadcast “B. Smith With style,” a half-hour show about home decorating and cooking. She owned 3 restaurants, all known as “B. Smith,” wrote 3 cookbooks and launched many lines of home goods, including lines at Bed Bath & Beyond, La-Z-Boy and Walmart.
Social media mourned
Her celebrity friends and fans mourned on social media as the news unfold Sunday.
“The class. The grace. The style,” director Ava DuVernay tweeted. “#BSmith was one-of-a-kind.”
Al Roker praised Smith and Gasby for being at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research for people of color, while Dr. Oz wrote that she approached her fight “with a spirit that made her light shine bright.”
Following a 2013 Alzheimer’s diagnosis, that she disclosed in 2014, the approach to life guru’s world grew more non-public, though she opened up regarding living with the disease in a 2016 book, “Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s.”
“I’m still myself. I just can’t remember things as well as I once did,” she wrote in the book co-authored by husband and by vanity fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson.
Smith and Gasby used the platform to boost awareness for Alzheimer’s, notably within the black community.
“Alzheimer’s is a 21st-century civil rights issue,” Gasby told USA Today in 2016 in a video Skype interview with Smith at his side. “Two out of three people with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Blacks are two to three times more likely to have Alzheimer’s. … And it drives people into poverty, in many cases taking away the gains that a sizable and growing portion of people in the African-American community has made.”
Controversy ensued in Smith’s later years, once Gasby sparked outrage over acknowledging his relationship with another woman as he served as his wife’s caregiver.
Gasby said during a 2019 appearance on “The View” that his wife of nearly three decades encouraged him to move on with his life after she learned of her diagnosis.
“When we got the diagnosis at Mount Sinai … she stopped me, put her hand on my arm and … she said to me, ‘I want you to go on,’ ” Gasby said at the time. “I’m not doing anything we didn’t discuss. … I could have easily placed her into a facility and I would not do that. This notion of vows, I’m keeping my vows. … Vows are to protect, to care for.”