On Thursday evening, a new message appeared on the Twitter account of a well-known restaurateur, fashion model, and television host: "The B. Smith recipe for getting through tough times — equal measures of faith, hope, courage and love. Season with style and elegance." What could this successful woman be talking about, "tough times"? Sadly, her depiction of the current moment is without embellishment: She received an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and recently revealed this news to her many fans.

 

In a preview of the full-length interview to air on the June 15 edition of Sunday Morning, Dr. Jon LaPook speaks of the disease with B. Smith, 64, who remains very beautiful.  A native of Pennsylvania, Smith began her career as a fashion model, becoming the first African-American woman on Mademoiselle’s cover in July 1976.  When LaPook gently though pointedly asks her if she knows today’s date, Smith visibly searches her memory but cannot find the answer. He persists. The month? No signs of understanding from Smith, who instead becomes emotional. The year? At this point Smith’s eyes fill with tears.

In 1986, Smith opened her first restaurant in New York City and followed that with two more. Soon after, she began hosting a TV program, B. Smith with Style, published books about entertaining and cooking, and generally earned her nickname: "the black Martha Stewart." It comes as no surprise that though she might not remember today’s date, she is not entirely speechless on the matter of her illness.

“People try to hide it from everybody,” she said, noting that there’s a stigma surrounded the disease, which is not helpful to those suffering from the most common form of dementia. “I think the future’s going to be fine, I’m going to do my best to make it work out for me and for as many people as I could possibly help too.” Currently, as many as five million Americans suffer from the disease; African-Americans have a slightly higher risk than European Americans.

After her initial visit four years ago to her doctor to discuss her symptoms — obvious memory problems — she went to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she consulted with experts in the field, including neurologist Dr. Martin Goldstein. During the CBS interview, he points to a special brain scan performed last October and tells LaPook that her condition is certain… and advanced. Though her symptoms continue to progress, she remains hopeful, an outlook supported by her fans who have posted prayers and best wishes as a response to her Twitter message (and a similar post on Facebook).

At the end of the CBS report, she appears with her business partner and husband of 22 years, Dan Gasby. After lifting her wine glass and saying "Cheers," Gasby responds, “In good and tough times.”  Yes, B. Smith appears to have some very fine years ahead of her.