She was a model turned restaurateur who evolved into a lifestyle expert and one of the very first brand influencers before this social media influencer era. Barbara “B.” Smith could sell me and others on anything lifestyle and home entertaining. She was amazing and a muse to event planners and at-home hospitality evangelists, especially those of us who are African American. We needed to see her face, feel her warmth, and see what had been demonstrated in many of our homes on television, in magazines, and more. That’s what B. Smith gave us.
She also gave me hope that I could be a voice and make a difference showing people how to live great lives and be a “good host.” It wasn’t that I wanted to be just like B. Smith. I do not want to be like her, but I most certainly want to articulate the same warmth and hospitality to my clients. That would be a nod to not only her but the women and men in my life who were much like her. I just want people to feel at home and to show them how to offer the same to their guests.
Where did she get it from? Well, she said in an old interview that as the descendant of people who worked as domestics, the finer points of living well — not necessarily opulently — at home, traveling and even professionally had been passed on to her. That’s it in a nutshell.
Hospitality is our heritage. Showing kindness to strangers and loved ones in the form of a great meal, a lovely environment, and an encouraging word is not only what our ancestors were known to do, but it is also what we had to do to survive. B. Smith, like my mother, did so to also thrive.
For that I am grateful. I will miss her. She made our world so beautiful.
Thank you, B. Rest in power.