On her TV show, B. Smith would introduce viewers to fashion designers or show them the proper way to clean copper pots, all while looking like she’d just stepped out of a photo shoot.Photograph by Barbara Alper / Getty

For me, growing up, after Saturday-morning cartoons came “B. Smith with Style.” I’d flip to NBC4 and wait for the sound of the show’s R. & B. instrumentals to fill my bedroom. Filmed in soft focus, with Smith’s straight-to-camera commentary guiding viewers through cooking segments and life-style tips, the show was peak nineties television. The , a montage of aspirational images—Smith smelling pink roses, Smith cooking in a sherbet-colored chef’s coat and toque, Smith strolling with her husband, Dan Gasby, on the beach—was backed by a theme song performed by Smith herself. “Every day is your own holiday,” she sang. I would settle into my twin bed to watch, luxuriating in Smith’s stylish world like a cat bathing in a beam of sunlight.

As a black girl living in southern Maryland, I considered Smith, who died, at seventy, last Saturday, an icon, and her show a revelation. For each episode’s half-hour duration, I watched Smith explain how to make everything around you better—or, at least, more elegant and delicious. Even before Ina Garten established her Barefoot Contessa empire, before the concept of a “domestic goddess” became a marketing tool, there was Smith, whisking her viewers into showrooms to meet fashion designers, into the kitchen of her Hamptons home to learn the right way to clean copper pots, all while looking like she’d just stepped out of a photo shoot.

Though Smith is largely remembered as a restaurateur, television host, and life-style guru, she began her career as a model. Born Barbara Elaine Smith, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she knew she wanted to work in fashion from a young age, and begged her mother and father to send her to modelling school, in Philadelphia, and they relented. After graduating from high school, she moved to New York City, where she was signed to the Wilhelmina Models agency. She sang in lounges and landed small acting gigs while searching for modelling work. “I used to make calls to magazines all the time. I wasn’t discovered. I made them discover me,” she said in 2011. In 1976, she became the second African-American model to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle. She opened her first restaurant in 1986, serving nouvelle cuisine meets Southern cooking, and incorporating the worldly influences she’d accumulated during her travels as a model. Smith made black-eyed-pea soup with vegetable stock and kale before kale was a buzzword. She repurposed fried okra as a topping for her veggie burgers.

2020欧洲杯最新战况In Smith’s world, food and dining seemed inextricable from hosting and entertaining. I loved watching her cook with celebrities like Mary Wilson or Kathleen Battle, assembling dishes with meticulously styled vegetables and seasonings. Smith was the consummate host, shaking hands and giving hugs, always poised, and able to engage and carry conversation with all kinds of people. (Even weren’t enough to throw her off.) Smith talked to viewers as if they were acquaintances, describing the feel of gorgeous handmade wood furniture in Jamaica, the silky fabrics of a fashion designer she was newly obsessed with, or the fabulous restaurant she and Gasby had discovered on their latest trip.

When I went away to college in the Northeast and travelled home to Maryland, I would always peek into Smith’s eponymous restaurant inside Union Station, in Washington, D.C. The smell of garlic and spices would waft through the entryway into the cavernous station hall just outside. The cursive lettering on the glass above the door complemented the opulent feel of the dining room, which was housed in the station’s grand Presidential Suite—a space that was originally conceived as a waiting room for the Chief Executive. I made a point to always pass by the restaurant on my way outside the station, where my mom would be waiting in a car to pick me up. I don’t think my mother, who worked for the government, had any interest in Smith or her celebrity, but, to me, a culinary-school student at the time, the space was hallowed ground; it felt familiar, although I had never set foot inside.

Smith was often characterized as a “black Martha Stewart,” but Smith herself resisted the comparison, or at least qualified it. “Martha Stewart has presented herself doing the things domestics and African-Americans have done for years,” in New York, in 1997, the year Smith’s show began airing. “This is the legacy that I was left. Martha just got there first.” She was one of the first black women I saw cooking and entertaining on television, not out of obligation to others but for her own pleasure. Smith showed me that it was possible to build a life out of hospitality. Her show also gave me some unrealistic expectations. I pictured myself becoming a food mogul one day, my life as elegant as hers seemed on television. The weeds in the garden of my seaside mansion need to be pulled? No problem. Usher and Ashanti are in town and want to stop by for dinner? I’d have a quiche or a pot of soup whipped up stat, and greet them at the door wearing a custom-made gown. We’d chat and linger for hours over dessert.

But Smith’s life wasn’t as tidy as it seemed on her show. In 2013, during a cooking demonstration on the “Today” show, Smith of one of the main ingredients in a marinade. Soon after, she announced that she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She and Gasby co-authored a book about her struggles, “,” and made speaking out about Alzheimer’s their mission. (Black people and women, they noted, are more likely to suffer from the disease.) In 2014, Smith briefly went missing, prompting a search in New York City before she was . Her health continued to deteriorate, and she closed her restaurants, starting with the Union Station outpost, which served its last meal in 2013. In , Gasby angered Smith’s fans when he announced that he had begun a new relationship, and that his girlfriend had a room in the house that he and Smith shared. I felt a pang of sadness looking at the photo of the threesome that accompanied the story. B. wasn’t facing the camera, commanding attention as she always had. She stood off to the side, her hair cropped short, while Gasby and his new partner—white, blond—communed in the center of the frame. I wanted to hold on to the self-possessed B. Smith I remembered from her television show, her dreadlocks beautifully coiffed, smiling from ear to ear.

Smith ended each episode of her show with a charge: “Whatever you do, do it with style.” She’d be decked out in some fabulous outfit, standing in some beautiful location. Then our peek into her world would abruptly end, and the credits would roll. I’d look forward to seeing her face again the next week. I remember thinking then that it wasn’t possible to be as stylish as B. Smith, and today I still think that’s true.