B. Smith, one of the country’s first high-profile black models who went on to become an author, restaurateur and lifestyle maven, has died after a seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 70.
Dan Gasby, Smith’s husband and caretaker, confirmed to USA TODAY that she died Saturday at home in Long Island, New York, in a statement provided by representative Jennifer Maguire.
“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 before going on to host the syndicated television show “B. Smith With Style,” a half-hour show about home decorating and cooking. She owned three restaurants, all called “B. Smith,” wrote three cookbooks and launched several lines of home goods, including lines at Bed Bath & Beyond, La-Z-Boy and Walmart. Following a 2013 Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which she revealed in 2014, the lifestyle guru’s world grew more private, though she opened up about 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 Dan Gasby and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson.
Smith and Gasby used the platform to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s, particularly 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 have made.”
Controversy ensued in Smith’s later years, when Gasby sparked outrage over acknowledging his relationship with another woman as he served as his wife’s caregiver.
Gasby said his wife of nearly three decades encouraged him to move on with his life after she learned of her diagnosis during a 2019 appearance on “The View.”
“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.”
Contributing: Cydney Henderson and Kim Painter, USA TODAY