Tanner Smith smiles at graduation and holds his diploma above his head.

From Tiger Stripes to TV Fame

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 University’s campus for a while now. Originally from Saint Matthews, South Carolina, Tanner 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,” Tanner said, referencing movies like Kung Fu Panda. Another one of Tanner’s favorite films is The Emperor’s New Groove.

Tanner 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,” Tanner said in an Instagram reel on February 5.

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

Tanner began his postgraduate 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.

Tanner’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, said.

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 Tanner’s favorite places to be is Bowman Field. Oftentimes, you can find Tanner playing kickball there or listening to some of his favorite tunes, such as “The Man” by Aloe Blacc. When the weather is warmer, he 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,” Tanner said.

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

Season Two of Love on the Spectrum premiered on January 19, with Tanner 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, Tanner 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, Tanner 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!” Tanner said.

Since being on the show, Tanner 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. He has made an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show and partnered with Vineyard Vines on a “Bring the Joy” T-shirt benefiting the ClemsonLIFE program.

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

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

“We are so thankful that Tanner 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 Tanner can spread joy while he lives his out.”

With Tanner’s newfound fame, he has been consistently posting content for his followers. Spreading awareness and teaching people about autism are some of the many reasons Tanner why has found a home in so many people’s hearts.

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

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