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Tanner Smith: From Tiger stripes to TV fame

Katie Bradham
Tanner talks with The Tiger’s Avery Mock for an interview.

If someone is described as “sunshine in human form,” that is likely an exaggeration. However, there is no hyperbole in that phrase when describing Tanner Smith, who recently appeared on Netflix’s “Love on the Spectrum” series.

The charming young man has been spreading joy on Clemson’s campus for a while now. Originally from Saint Matthews, South Carolina, Smith has been a Clemson fan his whole life. Naturally so, he has an affinity for tigers. His apartment décor is full of tiger-striped pillows and Clemson memorabilia.

“I like movies with tigers in them,” Smith told The Tiger, referencing movies like “Kung Fu Panda.” Another one of Smith’s favorite films is the criminally underrated film “The Emperor’s New Groove.”

Smith graduated from Clemson in May 2022. He was a part of the ClemsonLIFE program, where he learned how to live independently, manage money and foster relationships.

The ClemsonLIFE program stands for “learning is for everyone,” a message that is taught to individuals with intellectual disabilities as they prepare for life after graduation.

“The most important thing about ClemsonLIFE is it helps people learn how to get jobs. I worked at Fike, the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Lakeside Lodge,” Smith said in an Instagram reel on Feb. 5.

When asked for advice for future graduates becoming alumni this spring, Smith said, “It’s going to be great to be alumni. Graduating from Clemson can be a little scary at first. It’s okay to miss being a student, and it’s going to be great to be a working person.”

Smith began his post-graduation career at The Shepherd Hotel, located in downtown Clemson, where he serves as a public area cleaner. One of his favorite jobs at the hotel is sweeping the sidewalk because he loves to talk to people as they are walking by.

Smith’s colleagues easily adore his presence.

“Working with Tanner is filled with laughter, high fives and plenty of good stories every day,” Katrina Hubbard, assistant general manager of The Shepherd Hotel, told The Tiger.

His friendliness doesn’t stop there.

“He has an incredible gift in remembering names. If Tanner meets you once, he will know your name in the future,” Hubbard added.

Besides the hotel, one of Smith’s favorite places to be is Bowman Field. Oftentimes, you can find Smith playing kickball there or listening to some of his favorite tunes, such as “The Man” by Aloe Blacc. When the weather is warmer, Smith makes time to visit The Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Complex or relax by the pool.

“I wish more people knew that I’m such a good swimmer,” Smith said.

While you may have said hello to the 25-year-old around Clemson’s campus, the rest of the world has seen Smith on their television screens.

Season two of “Love on the Spectrum” premiered on Jan. 19, with Smith as one of the breakout stars. The documentary series follows people on the autism spectrum as they navigate the world of romance.

On the show, Smith quickly won the hearts of many viewers. He described himself as a “kind young man” who spreads joy all around the world but said he was no love expert. Still, Smith went on a couple of dates with his now-friend Kate, discussing his love of gorillas and history.

“We had a lot of fun doing that!” Smith said.

Since being on the show, Smith has amassed over 300,000 Instagram followers and counting. A clip of his date with Kate, posted on TikTok by Netflix Clips, has gained over 40 million views.

“My life has changed because I have a lot of followers on Instagram, and I’m on the news. It’s exciting!” Smith said of the aftermath of being on the show.

Smith’s mother, Nicci, is amazed at the support that he has received over the past month.

“We are so thankful that Smith has this opportunity to spread joy and autism awareness,” she said. “Our family believes that God creates each of us for a beautiful purpose, and we are so thankful Smith can spread joy while he lives his out.”

With Smith’s newfound fame, he has been consistently posting content for his followers and even released merchandise, with clothing and hats toting popular phrases from the show, such as “Are my eyebrows right?”

Recently, he met up with fellow “Love on the Spectrum” season two star Connor Tomlinson and season one star Kaelynn Partlow, and they bonded over their love of animals.

Earlier this month, Smith visited a second-grade class at Calhoun Academy, where he read “My Sister Can Too” by Nicole Delay. Spreading awareness and teaching people about autism are some of the many reasons Smith why has found a home in so many people’s hearts.

If you want to see more of Smith, his Instagram is @tannerwiththe_tism, where he relays his mission in his bio: “Keep spreading joy all around the world.”

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About the Contributors
Avery Mock
Avery Mock, TimeOut Editor
Katie Bradham
Katie Bradham, Senior Videographer
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  • J

    Jeni MockFeb 22, 2024 at 11:48 am

    I love this! What a great story to read. I want to meet Tanner!

  • W

    William AllenFeb 22, 2024 at 10:39 am

    Great Article!