How Did B. Smith Die? Legendary Model And Lifestyle Guru Dead At 70

Photo: getty
How Did B. Smith Die? Legendary Model And Lifestyle Guru Dead At 70
Entertainment And News

Legendary model and lifestyle expert B. Smither passed away over the weekend in her Long Island home. She was 70 years old.

RELATED: How Did Candace Muzny Die? Former NASCAR Racer Dead At 43

Smith started her career as a model, scoring cover shoots at a time when African- American models weren't often hired for jobs like that. Her real dream, however, was to feed people and she eventually opened three successful restaurants as well as authoring several cookbooks. She hosted her own television show about cooking and interior design.

In 2014, Smith revealed that she had Alzheimer's and she and her husband advocated for awareness of the illness, even writing a book and speaking about their experience. As the disease progressed, she was unable to make public appearances anymore.

How did B. Smith die? Read on for the tragic details. 

1. Who was B. Smith?

B. Smith was born Barbara Elaine Smith in Scottsdale, PA in 1949. Her father was a steelworker and her mother worked as a part-time housekeeper while she was growing up. After high school, Smith pursued a modeling career and signed with the legendary Wilhemina agency. According to her husband's post about her life on Facebook, she appeared on "15 magazines and became one of the first African-American women on Mademoiselle’s cover in July 1976. In addition to TV commercials for Mercedes-Benz, she has served as a spokesperson for Verizon, Colgate Palmolive Oxy and McCormick’s Lawry seasonings products."

She was married to Donald Anderson from 1986 to 1990. Not long after her divorce, she met Dan Gasby and the two got married in 1992. She became stepmother to his daughter Dana and the two stayed married for the rest of her life. 

Smith was one of the first African-American models to be on Mademoiselle's cover.

2. She became a food and lifestyle expert.

By 1986, Smith had opened her first restaurant called B. Smith's in Manhattan. She would go to open two other locations, one in Sag Harbor and another in the historic Union Station in Washington DC. Starting in 1997, she had a syndicated TV show called B. Smith With Style, which focused on decorating and cooking. The half-hour program was nationally syndicated and aired on NBC stations as well as on cable, according to her husband. She also published three cookbooks and had a line of home goods that was sold at Bed Bath And Beyond as well as other retailers. 

3. She was called the "black Martha Stewart." 

During the 90s, when Martha Stewart was making her meteoric rise to pop-culture ubiquity, Smith was working in the same cooking and lifestyle space. Critics inevitably made comparisons between the two women but Smith pushed back on the analogy. “Martha Stewart has presented herself doing the things domestics and African Americans have done for years,” she once told reporters. “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.”

RELATED: How Did Caroline Flack Die? 'Love Island' Host Dead At 40 By Suicide

TRENDING NOW on YourTango

4. In 2014, she shared a crushing diagnosis with fans.

Smith was only 64 years old when she received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. She and her husband used the moment to pivot from focusing on her lifestyle brand for openly advocating for awareness and research on the disease. They wrote a book called Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer's and spoke about their shared experience as an Alzheimer's patient and caregiver in the years following her diagnosis. Eventually, Smith was no longer able to make public appearances anymore. 

Smith and her husband Dan Gasby.

5. The world was shocked when Gasby got a girlfriend. 

Smith's decline was happening behind closed doors but that didn't mean it wasn't happening. As time went on, she became less lucid and required more supervision. Gasby was committed to being with her and caring for her in sickness as he had in health, however, he also found a new romantic partner. In 2017, he started to get to know Alex Lerner and the two slowly turned a friendship into a romance. Lerner understood the complexity of the situation and was supportive of Gasby while he continued to care for his wife as her mental faculties continued to decline. Social media users criticized the arrangement, with one Facebook user saying, “You don’t bring your mistress in the house where your WIFE lives. She’s not dead." But the family adjusted to the new situation and Lerner found a way to be part of the team that was caring for Smith.

“If I can be compassionate to her,” Lerner said of her relationship to Smith in 2019, “If I can do anything for her, it makes me feel good. If it is giving her something to drink or making her something to eat — she loves to eat — I feel good.”

6. How did B. Smith die?

On February 22, 2020 Gasby announced on Facebook that Smith had passed away.  "It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith," Gasby wrote. "B. died peacefully Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:50 pm, of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in our home in Long Island, New York. She was 70."

He ended by saying, "Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.'s dazzling and unforgettable smile."

Smith is survived by her husband and stepdaughter, as well as her many fans.

RELATED: How Did Jason Davis Die? Disney's 'Recess' Actor Dead At 35 In Los Angeles 

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.

Author
Writer