NEW YORK (AP) — Barbara “B.” Smith, one of the nation’s top black models who went on to open restaurants, launch a successful home products line and write cookbooks, has died at her Long Island home at age 70 after battling early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Smith’s family announced on social media that she died Saturday evening.
“Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.’s dazzling and unforgettable smile,” Smith’s husband Dan Gasby said on Facebook.
Smith’s 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 who’s who of black Manhattan meet, greet and eat regularly.”
Smith wrote three cookbooks, founded three successful restaurants and launched a nationally syndicated television show and a magazine. Her successful home products line was the first from a black woman to be sold at a nationwide retailer when it debuted in 2001 at Bed Bath & Beyond.
In 1976, she became the second black model to be on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine, after Jolie Jones in 1969.
“You epitomized class, true beauty and dignity. Rest well Queen,” actress Viola Davis wrote on Twitter.
Smith was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. She and Gasby raised awareness of the disease, and particularly its impacts on the African-American community, following her diagnosis.
Some described Smith as a “black Martha Stewart,” a comparison she said she didn’t 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…