Style expert B. Smith dies of Alzheimer’s Disease

First a model, Smith later was known for her TV show and her home decor, and then for going public with her condition.

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Barbara Smith in 2002.

Susan Walsh/AP

Barbara Smith, the TV personality known as B. Smith who was one of the country’s firsthigh-profile black models and went on to become anauthor, restaurateur and lifestyle maven, has died after a seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s. She was 70.

Dan Gasby said in a Facebook post that Smith died Saturday night of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in their home in Long Island, New York.

“Heavenis shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.’s dazzling and unforgettable smile,” Gasby wrote.

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 cookbooksand launched several lines of home goods, including lines at Bed, Bath & Beyond, La-Z-Boy and Walmart.

“I want to give people the license to not be perfect,” Smith told the Sun-Times in 1999. “I want you to break the rules. It’s not about perfection.”

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Barbara Smith promotes a book at Marshall Field’s State Street in 1999.

Sun-Times file

Her celebrity friends and fans mourned on social media as the news spread Sunday.

”The elegance. The grace. The style,” director Ava DuVernay tweeted. “#BSmith was one-of-a-kind.”

Al Roker praised Smith and Gasby for being at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research for people of color, while Dr. Mehmet Oz wrote that she approached her fight “with a spirit that made her light shine bright.”

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 byhusband Dan Gasby andVanity Faircontributing 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 interviewwith 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.”

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Dan Gasby and Barbara Smith in 2013.

Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

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 ofher diagnosis during a 2019 appearance on “The View.”

”When we got thediagnosis 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.”

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