On Saturday, February 23, 2020, Black America lost one of its most adored sheroes. Legendary lifestyle maven Barbara Elaine Smith, lovingly known to family, friends and fans as B. Smith, passed away at the age of 70 after a valiant and heartbreaking fight with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
B. Smith was a true icon to Black women, especially those in the world of beauty, fashion and lifestyle. Her style and grace ran deeper than we will ever know. Often referred to in mainstream media as the ‘Black Martha Stewart,’ Smith’s receipts are vast. She was an author, restaurateur, talk show host, businesswoman, and the ultimate lifestyle queen.
B. Smith may not have been one to brag, but her legacy speaks for itself. As we remember the life of a woman who taught little Black girls and Black women everywhere what it meant to truly be #BlackGirlMagic long before it was a hashtag, we’re sharing a few facts you may not know about B. Smith and her undeniable legacy. And remember, in the words of B. Smith, “Whatever You Do, Do It With Style.”
She Was A Cover Girl
Before she was the powerhouse lifestyle maven we all know and love, B. Smith was a nationally-recognized model and cover girl. After signing with the Wilhelmina modeling agency in the early 70s, she became the first Black model to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine in 1976. Another fun fact, over the last 50 years, B. Smith has appeared on at total of five ESSENCE covers.
Her Restaurant Was The Heart Of The Black Social Scene
Since childhood, B. Smith enjoyed cooking and sewing, even founding a home economics club and naming herself president. So it was no surprise that she’d go on to open her own restaurant one day, B. Smith’s, in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district. The upscale location was the place to be for those on the Black social scene, with ESSENCE once affirming it was “where the who’s who of black Manhattan meet, greet and eat regularly.”
Her Show, B. Smith Style, Helped Set The Trend For Lifestyle Television
In the 1990s, long before there would ever be a Martha Stewart Show, the effervescent B. Smith came into our homes weekly with her television show “B. Smith With Style,” which she hosted. Some of Black America’s biggest stars, like Gladys Knight, passed through to kiki and share lifestyle tips.
She Brought Flavor Into Our Homes With Cookbooks
Of course, after dining at her famed restaurant guests would want to know how they could be the flavors of B. Smith home, so the lifestyle queen released a series of books on cooking and entertaining including B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends, B. Smith’s Rituals and Celebrations, and B. Smith Cooks Southern Style.
She Was A Home Decor Goddess
If you thought B. Smith was done after becoming a successful model. restauranteur, television host and author, you thought wrong. She even went on to expand her empire to include a furniture line and a home collection at Bed Bath and Beyond.
She Was An Advocate For Alzheimer’s Disease
In her late 50s B. Smith began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, once the illness was officially diagnosed, the icon refused to go down without a fight. Instead of fading into the background she and her husband Dan Gasby took their personal fight to congress in March 2015 and spoke out on the issue. The couple also co-wrote a book on their journey titled, “Before I Forget.”