B. Smith, the trailblazing fashion model who proved to be more successful as a restaurateur, television personality and branding pioneer, has passed away at age 70.
Her husband, Dan Gasby, confirmed her death on the couple’s Facebook page Sunday morning.
“It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith,” Gasby wrote. “Thank you to all the friends and fans who supported B. and our family during her journey. Thank you to everyone for respecting our privacy during this agonizing time.”
The Everson, Penn. native died of complications from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the couple’s Long Island home on Saturday night.
“Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.’s dazzling and unforgettable smile,” he added.
Smith got her start as a fashion model. In 1969, her first big break came when she won a place with the Ebony Fashion Fair, a groundbreaking show produced in tandem with Ebony magazine that traveled across the country.
Signed to the top-tier Wilhelmina modeling agency, she became one of the first African American women to grace a mainstream fashion magazine cover (Mademoiselle’s July 1976 edition).
Post modeling, the brown-skinned beauty blazed a new trail as an acclaimed restaurateur with her eponymous eateries, which at their peak during the 1990s included three locations—Manhattan, Sag Harbor and Washington D.C.
During the mid-1990s, she was the host of B. Smith With Style, a nationally syndicated talk show that was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award in 2000.
Smith authored three books about cooking and entertaining and became the face of a home goods collection with Bed Bath & Beyond, which was the “first line from an African American woman to be sold at a nationwide retailer,” according to her website.
She also launched a furniture line for the La-Z-Boy company in 2007.
In 2011, Smith made her acting debut in the Off-Broadway production of Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s star-studded play Love, Loss and What I Wore.
She went public with her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2013.
In 2016, Vanity Fair editor Michael Shnayerson helped the couple chronicle her medical journey in the poignant memoir Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s.
“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever dealt with,” Gasby told People magazine while promoting the tome. “Anybody who is an Alzheimer’s caregiver knows exactly what other caregivers are going through. It’s 24/7. The complexity and the intensity of it is very tough.”
The seemingly idyllic couple, who wed in 1992, became the center of controversy a little more than a year after the book’s publication when Gasby started stepping out with a woman he was dating, Alexandra Lerner.
Lerner reportedly was taking care of her dying father when she reached out to offer support after Gasby expressed how lonely he felt.
After publicly announcing on Facebook the choice he made—meeting and falling in love with the younger, leggy blonde—Gasby was excoriated and became the subject of much social media scrutiny.
Taking on the criticism head on, the former television executive defiantly defended his decision to openly date the German-born radio personality, who is 11 years his junior.
“After finding happiness with Alex, I shared the relationship on social media,” he shared with the Today show in 2019. “The backlash was swift. People condemned me. They said I was an adulterer and taking advantage of B. and her money.
“Many think I am neglecting or abusing B. but that is not the case,” Gasby continued. “I’m having a relationship that is complicated because my wife is no longer my wife. As I said before, I love my wife, but I can’t let her take away my life.”
On Aug. 24, Smith turned 70. She reportedly had a net worth of around $20 million.
According to reports, survivors include her stepdaughter, Dana Gasby; two brothers, Ronald and Dennis Smith, and Gasby.