Lifestyle icon B. Smith dies at 70 after early onset Alzheimer's

image source, Getty Images

Barbara "B." Smith, the groundbreaking lifestyle guru, fashion model and restaurateur has died at the age of 70, according to her family.

The restaurateur and author suffered from early onset Alzheimer's disease.

Smith was sometimes referred to as the "black Martha Stewart" due to her line of books, businesses and TV programmes.

She began suffering memory problems years before her death. Her husband began dating before she died, attracting interest as well as critics.

The daughter of a steelworker and a maid began modeling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after graduating from secondary school in the late 1960s. She went on to sign with the prominent Wilhelmina modelling agency in New York City.

In 1976 she became only the second black model to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine.

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image captionSmith accepts an award from Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 2009

During her modelling career, she travelled world capitals tasting new dishes at high-end restaurants. That experience led her to open several restaurants in New York.

In a 1997 interview with New York magazine, she said she did not mind the constant comparisons to Martha Stewart, even though they felt "a little tired".

"Martha Stewart has presented herself doing the things domestics and African Americans have done for years," she said.

"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."

Smith hosted the nationally-televised programme B. Smith with Style for nearly a decade on NBC before her illness became too much of an interference.

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image captionSmith outside her New York City bistro in 2001

In 1992, she married her second husband Dan Gasby, who helped her build her lifestyle empire.

When her condition began to deteriorate, the two wrote a book, Before I Forget, which described what it was like to deal with the disease.

In 2018, Mr Gasby described how he had taken a new girlfriend, who was helping him to care for his ailing wife.

The announcement led to a mixture of curiosity and criticism in the US media.

Living with someone who cannot understand your love for them is "hell without the heat", Mr Gasby told BBC World Service in February 2019 in an interview.