In 1976, American Barbara Smith became only the second black model to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine. That was only the beginning of her extraordinary success.
During her career, “B.” Smith wrote three cookbooks and opened restaurants in New York and Washington, D.C. She launched a home decorating line of products, marketing herself as an expert on the good life. Her home products were a big success and the first from a black woman to be sold at large stores around the United States.
Some Americans spoke about “B.” Smith as a “black Martha Stewart.” Stewart is a white television (TV) personality known for her TV shows and books on cooking, gardening and the home.
But in 1997, Smith told New York magazine she thought they were very different.
“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 left. Martha just got there first.”
Smith’s husband Dan Gasby told the magazine, “Martha is perfection and Barbara is passion.”
“B.” Smith died this week at her New York home. She was 70 years old and suffered from Alzehiemer’s disease.
Her family announced her death on social media.
“Heaven is shining ever brighter now that it is graced with B.’s…unforgettable smile,” her husband wrote on Facebook.
Smith’s first Manhattan restaurant opened in 1986. Essence magazine described it as the place “where the who’s who of black Manhattan meet, greet and eat regularly.”
Smith was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. She and Gasby later worked to fight the disease in the African-American community.
Smith began suffering from memory loss years before her diagnosis.
Smith was from the eastern state of Pennsylvania. She began her career as a fashion model in Pittsburgh and went on to serve as a spokeswoman for several large American companies.
I’m Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
decorate – v. to make (something) more attractive usually by putting something on it
gardening – v. to work in a garden
diagnose – v. to recognize (a disease, illness, etc.) by examining someone
domestic – n. a maid or helper
legacy – n. something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past
passion – n. a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something
heaven – n. the place where God lives and where good people go after they die according to some religions
grace – v. to decorate or add beauty to
greet – v. to say hello