Barbara “B.” Smith, a steelworker’s daughter who grew to become a person of the best black products on journal handles in the 1970s and later on parlayed her glamour and identity into ventures as a restaurateur, Tv host and way of life maven, died Feb. 22 at her residence in East Hampton, New York. She was 70.
Her death was announced in a statement by her spouse and children. Smith was diagnosed in 2013 with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and closed her restaurants – in Manhattan, on Prolonged Island and at Union Station in Washington, D.C. – in excess of the upcoming two several years. She went on to champion Alzheimer’s study with her spouse and caretaker, Dan Gasby, with whom she posted a 2016 ebook, “Before I Ignore.”
Smith – she shortened her very first name to the original “B.” during her modeling job – was greatly regarded as a primary African American entrepreneur in fields that experienced extended been unwelcoming to minorities.
She wrote textbooks, began a journal and experienced a syndicated Television display, all focused on amusement and hostessing. Despite the fact that her audiences transcended race, she typically was described as a “black Martha Stewart.” Smith reported she discovered the comparison “a minor drained.”
“Martha Stewart has introduced herself performing the items domestics and African People have done for many years,” she after informed New York journal. “We ended up normally expected to redo the chairs and use all the things in the garden. This is the legacy that I was left. Martha just received there to start with.”
In her youth, Smith liked cooking and sewing but felt undesired at the 4-H club in her hometown in western Pennsylvania. To satisfy her budding passions, she after stated, she started a home economics club and named herself president.
Immediately after beginning her modeling occupation in Pittsburgh, Smith signed with the well known Wilhelmina agency in New York. In 1976, she turned 1 of the first black styles to seem on the front of Mademoiselle journal.
That deal with, alongside with her repeated appearances in publications this sort of as Ebony and Essence, released a modeling vocation that took her to manner capitals this sort of as Paris and Milan – and to all those cities’ top rated eating places. Afterwards, she tried out to reproduce their menus at property for close friends in the runway established.
Smith’s subsequent attempts at a pop-singing occupation fizzled, while to her credit score as a tastemaker she employed the potential soul star Freddie Jackson as a backup singer. She also tried to crack into performing but observed, she explained to New York journal, that black actors were employed only to “play junkies or prostitutes or persons who are still left by junkies or prostitutes.”
Calling on her longtime enthusiasm for foodstuff, she grew to become associated in the hospitality sector and worked her way into administration at Ark Places to eat Corp. Partnering with that company, she opened her eponymous bistro in New York’s theater district in 1986.
A next B. Smith restaurant opened in Union Station in 1994 just one critic termed it “the grandest eating place on the Hill and maybe in the city.” A further adopted in upscale Sag Harbor, New York, in 1998. Her delicacies normally was explained as substantial-conclude soul foodstuff. Some restaurant critics discovered that the institutions emphasized fashionable decor in excess of consistency in the kitchen, but they became well-liked social gatherings spots favored in particular by black experts.
“These ended up places to eat where you could say, we’re now investment decision bankers and attorneys and associates in consulting companies,” Lawrence Otis Graham, the writer of “Our Kind of People today: Inside America’s Black Upper Class,” told The Washington Write-up in a 2014 job interview.
“You could not carry shoppers and folks you have been attempting to do small business with to the aged-fashioned mom and pop soul food items dining establishments that existed before her eating places,” he ongoing. “She introduced kind of a significant-close polish to the soul food items cafe business.”
Smith’s organization marriage with Ark Dining establishments later on soured, and she and her 2nd partner, Gasby, at some point bought out their lover.
Her initial e-book, “B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends” (1995), integrated options for a cocktail social gathering, a intimate Valentine’s Day meal, a seaside picnic, an elegant soiree and a Kwanzaa-Christmas buffet.
Afterwards volumes included “Rituals and Celebrations” (1999) and “B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style” (2009). Recipes provided the ordinary (macaroni and cheese) and the gourmand (alligator-stuffed eggplant). “I’m not a chef,” she explained to The Publish. “I’m a cook dinner.”
In the 1990s, Smith introduced the television show “B. Smith With Design,” which she hosted and which was syndicated by Hearst Amusement, and the magazine B. Smith Style. Her way of living empire arrived to contain a furnishings line and a assortment at Mattress, Tub and Past.
“I felt we desired ideas that address a new generation,” she the moment wrote, “one way too active and inventive for staid staples this sort of as highly-priced caterers or gold-leaf calligraphy.”
Barbara Elaine Smith was born in Everson, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 24, 1949. Her father was a steelworker, and her mother, whom she credited with supporting educate her to be a hostess, was a maid.
Smith mentioned that she persuaded her father to permit her to enroll in the John Robert Powers modeling software only after she described it as a ending faculty. A person of her very first positions was as a floor hostess for Trans Planet Airways at Pittsburgh International Airport.
As an aspiring design, she endured regular rejections in advance of staying chosen in 1969 for the Ebony Vogue Reasonable, a traveling manner exhibit, prior to signing with the Wilhelmina company.
Her initially relationship, to Donald Anderson, ended in divorce. Survivors include things like Gasby, whom she married in 1992, and a stepdaughter, Dana, the two of East Hampton and two brothers.
As Smith’s wellbeing and memory deteriorated in current years, her partner commenced relationship once again, angering some of Smith’s followers even as he ongoing caring for her at dwelling. Gasby advised The Submit previous 12 months that he had launched his girlfriend to Ms. Smith, even though it was unclear if she understood the mother nature of their partnership. “If ‘This Is Us’ and ‘Modern Family’ came with each other, it would be us,” he stated.
Smith was a spokeswoman for many bathtub, cooking and kitchen goods and, in 2011, appeared in “Love, Reduction and What I Wore,” an off-Broadway engage in prepared by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron primarily based on a e book by Ilene Beckerman about the spot of manner in women’s life.
“Being a product is about fantasy,” Smith at the time reported. “And so is entertaining.”
The Washington Post’s Harrison Smith contributed to this report.