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B. Smith, model and TV personality, dies at 70 after battling early-onset Alzheimer's

While Smith was a successful model, author and television host, her final legacy was helping encourage more research on Alzheimer's for people of color.
/ Source: TODAY

B. Smith, the iconic model, TV personality and businesswoman who spoke candidly about her diagnosis in 2013 with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, has died at age 70.

"It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith. 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," Smith's husband, Dan Gasby, wrote on Instagram. "Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.'s dazzling and unforgettable smile.

While Smith was a successful model, restaurateur, businesswoman, author and television host, her final legacy was helping encourage more research on Alzheimer's for people of color. In 2015, Smith recorded a public service announcement encouraging more minorities to sign up for the registry and participate in clinical trials.

Barbara Elaine Smith was born on August 24, 1949. The Pennsylvania native, who went by B. Smith throughout her career, was a trailblazer in the modeling world. She became the first African American woman to grace the cover of Mademoiselle in July 1976, and was featured on 15 magazine covers during her career as a fashion model.

Smith really did do it all. She was an accomplished chef, author and restaurateur, but fans got to know Smith even better as host of the nationally syndicated show "B. Smith With Style."

B. Smith
B. Smith, who owned B. Smith's Restaurant Row and had an accomplished career as a model and TV personality, has died at age 70.Anthony Barboza / Getty Images

Every episode was a new adventure, whether it was cooking "teen-friendly snacks" with her daughter, Dana, taking viewers behind the scenes to learn how jelly beans are made, or trying out a new red snapper recipe with Henry Winkler.

In 2001, Smith launched her first home decor collection at Bed Bath & Beyond. Smith's line has since expanded to other retail partners, including Belk, Burlington, Home Depot, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Stein Mart.

Smith, who was a popular and much-loved guest on TODAY, talked to Al Roker in 2015 about her diagnosis and desire to help further Alzheimer's research.

"I had tears in my eyes," she said. "But at the same time I also said, 'I'm not going to give to it. I am going to fight.'"

Gasby opened up in the same interview about what it was like to get the devastating news.

"You don’t believe it—there’s total denial," he said. "And then you go to a point of anger and then you go to a point of frustration. And then you go to a point where you curse God and you say, ‘Why? She doesn’t deserve this.'"

“If anybody didn’t deserve this it was this woman because she is the sweetest human being, bar none. And then, after you curse God, you apologize."

Al Roker posted a photo with Smith and Gasby on Sunday and shared his heartbreak at hearing the news.

"Just so sad to hear about the passing of legendary fashion model, chef, restaurateur, lifestyle icon and magazine publisher, B Smith. 70 years old," he wrote. "She and her husband, Dan Gasby were at the forefront of #alzheimers #research for people of color. Love to them and daughter, Dana."