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B. Smith is back on stage

LINDA ARMSTRONG Special to the AmNews | 5/27/2011, 2:13 p.m.

"Phenomenal Woman."Those two words describe 60-year-old Barbara Smith, the owner of B. Smith's res- taurant (which has locations in Manhattan's Theater District, Washington, D.C., and Sag Harbor), a former Ebony Fashion Fair model, the first African-American to grace the cover of Mademoiselle magazine, the first African-American ground hostess for TWA in Pittsburgh, Pa., a cookbook au- thor, the creator of a home decor, furniture and jewelry line, the star of a lifestyle television show, a guest star on television shows like "Mr. Rogers," where they recreated her kitchen,a wife, mother and actress.

Being an actress is not new to Smith. Years ago she acted with the New Federal Theatre and Woodie King Jr., and worked with Ernie McClintock. Once again, her statuesque, stylish form is gracing a theater stage as she makes her off- Broadway debut as part of the rotating cast of "Love, Loss and What I Wore" at the Westside Theatre on West 43rd Street. She is both funny and moving, as she, along with four other cast members-Anne Meara, Conchata Ferrell, Minka Kelly and AnnaLynne McCord-share women's stories about their youth, mothers, boots, pocketbooks, trying on clothes in the dressing room, etc.

What attracted her to the play was, "I love the idea of a show for, by and about women. I always loved acting and [ap- preciate] the opportunity to go back on stage in a differ- ent way than I had ever been. We have a book in front of us, so we didn't have to do a crash course. It was a chance to get back to something that was in my heart and soul."

Smith shared that acting was always a passion of hers,and one that she wanted to return to eventually. Discussing one of her role models growing up,shesaid,"AlbertaHunter sang when she was young. She became a nurse when she was in her 50s and didn't go back to singing until she was 65 years old. She sang bluesy music at the Cookery. She made me realize some things I can do later."

Relating to the fact that the show is about clothing, Smith described an outfit that makes her feel like a queen. "I have a red Indian-style outfit with a gold and mandarin collar and it makes me feel regal. I have a pair of gold pants and gold shoes to match," she said.

This lady, who multitasks beautifully, got a strong business sense from her parents. While her mother was a maid and her father a steelworker, Smith grew up in very com- fortable surroundings where money was not an issue. "We had a three-family home, we had tenants and my parents collected rent. The tenants had daughters who babysat us. Our house was beautiful. My dad made the furniture. We had apple trees and a garden. I grew up with a lot of style. When I moved to New York, my dad gave me lacquer furniture and chairs he made. To make ends meet, I had three jobs- waitressing, teaching at the modeling school and modeling," Smith recalled.