I grew up on an island and I’m an only child, so I was unique growing up. I’m originally from St Thomas. It’s one of three United States Virgin Islands, along with St John and St Croix. You’ve probably been to one on a cruise. I lived there until I was 6 and then moved to the states with my mom. I flew back to St, Thomas by myself every summer, as an unaccompanied minor (some of you remember what that was like) until I was 14 and stayed with family.
I almost exclusively played outside. I was extremely imaginative and creative. The “look at me be a ridiculous child” vibes were strong. When I wasn’t out in nature, I could be found watching Jim Carrey movies, namely Ace Ventura and subsequently mimicking him by talking out of my butt. “Allll righty then.” My grandma was definitely over it. I made up different characters. Put on shows. Built pillow forts with my cousin. I played an absurd amount of Scrabble with my granny. Both of my grandfathers were influential in my life. My dad’s dad, Joe, owned an electrical contracting company- Smalls Electric. My interest in engineering likely developed from my time “working” with him and his contractors as a kid.
My mom’s dad was pivotal in my relationship with music. The La Motta Brother’s Orchestra shaped Calypso music and became a mainstream soundtrack of the Virgin Islands. My relationship with my grandfather, Ray, and music led me to playing the alto saxophone, which I still play to this day. Music and the energy it creates, was and is foundational to me. The signs that I would be an entertainer were all there. I was, and am, independent, creative, and nourished by entertaining people.
During the non-summer months, I grew up in Temple Terrace in Tampa, FL near University of South Florida, the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI), and Adventure Island. When we moved to Florida, I asked my mom to put me in acting classes, but back then Google didn’t exist, and she didn’t know how to go about it.
To fill that void, I continued to play the saxophone, I played hockey (roller, not ice), and soccer. And, as many of my childhood friends that are still my friends to this day will attest, I threw the most bomb birthday parties. (Except for my 7th birthday, that was a bust. But, that’s a whole other story.)
After high school, I left Tampa and I studied at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. I was 2.5 years into a mechanical engineering degree when an older fraternity brother and longtime stage manager for Universal Studios and Disney said to me, despite my course of study, I had a particular energy he thought would be right for Nickelodeon and asked me to audition for an upcoming show. I booked it! This was my introduction to the world of entertainment. I started as a 19-year-old show assistant, shuffling around giant, cartoon-sized props, whipping up cream pies, and engineering the perfect slime. (Sorry, I can’t divulge the secret of the ooze.)
While still hosting shows for Nickelodeon, Rubin Ervin, one of my closest friends and mentor, who is a world-class audience warm-up, most notably known for his work with Steve Harvey and Kelly Clarkson, introduced me to a DJ company. They brought me on for my emcee skills and soon taught me how to DJ. Around the same time, another friend saw a particular energy in me and introduced me to the acting studio where he studied- Art’s Sake. Thus, creating what would be my entertainment tripod.
At the time I was naïve to my path in life and had no idea what the universe had in store for me, but I had a particular energy within me that others could see, and I could only vaguely feel. But little did I know, I was already betrothed to the entertainment industry. I was destined to be a performer- a curiously talented one.
“Okay now. Bye, bye then.” Thanks for taking the time to read this blog entry about my origins. I appreciate you and can’t wait to share more with you and connect more directly. What did you learn from this post and what do you look forward to on our adventure together? Feel free to reach out to me at Contact@AaronSmalls.com, or via the contact page on AaronSmalls.com, or on social @TheAaronSmalls