Author and entrepreneur, who had early onset Alzheimers, founded eponymous Manhattan restaurant which achieved society success

The groundbreaking model, restaurateur and lifestyle guru Barbara B Smith, known to many as the black Martha Stewart, has died, her family announced on Sunday. She was 70.

Smith died on Saturday evening after suffering from early onset Alzheimers disease, which she was found to have in 2013. Following her diagnosis, Smith and her husband, Dan Gasby, raised awareness of the disease and particularly its impacts on the African American community.

Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with Bs dazzling and unforgettable smile, Gasby said in a lengthy Facebook post.

Smiths eponymous Manhattan restaurant opened in 1986 and attracted a following among affluent black New Yorkers, the New York Times recalled. Essence magazine described it as the place where the whos who of black Manhattan meet, greet and eat regularly.

She wrote three cookbooks, founded three successful restaurants and launched a nationally syndicated TV show and magazine. Her successful home products line was the first from a black woman to be sold at a nationwide US retailer.

Smith
Smith with Dan Gasby in 2010. Photograph: WENN Rights Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

In 1976, she became the second black model to be on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine, after Jolie Jones in 1969.

Some described Smith as a black Martha Stewart, a comparison she said she didnt mind though she believed the two lifestyle mavens were quite different.

Martha Stewart has presented herself doing the things domestics and African Americans have done for years, she said in a 1997 interview with New York magazine. We were always expected to redo the chairs and use everything in the garden. This is the legacy that I was left. Martha just got there first.

In the same interview, Gasby said: Martha is perfection and Barbara is passion.

Smith began suffering from memory problems years before her diagnosis. She once froze for several seconds while being interviewed on the Today Show, prompting a doctors visit that led to her diagnosis. A few months later, she went missing in New York City for a day.

In 2018, Gasby revealed that he was in a relationship with another woman while caring for his ailing wife, leading to harsh criticism from some fans. He fired back at critics with a Facebook post about the pain of living with Alzheimers in the family.

I love my wife but I cant let her take away my life, he wrote.

The couple co-authored a book, Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help and Acceptance in Our fight Against Alzheimers, and partnered with the Brain Health Registry.

Smith, a native of Pennsylvania, began her career as a fashion model in Pittsburgh and went on to serve as a spokeswoman for Verizon, Colgate, Palmolive Oxy and McCormicks Lawry seasonings.

She hosted the nationally syndicated TV show B Smith with Style for nearly a decade, on NBC stations.

Smith is survived by Gasby, whom she married in 1992, and her stepdaughter Dana Gasby.

This article was amended on 24 February 2020 to correct the spelling of Jolie Jones.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/23/barbara-b-smith-model-restaurateur-dies

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