#Rising: Warrensville Heights native makes it big after losing everything

#Rising: Rake, Part 1

Everyone struggles. 

Everyone has hard times.

What separates the successful is their answer to the struggle.

It was Ricky Smith’s response to his trials that has catapulted him to success. 

We know the Warrensville Heights native as the man behind the social movement Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere, known on social media as #RAKE. 

He's written for national comedy shows and hosted numerous star studded events across the country. 

He’s also the face of a national McDonald’s ad. 

However, Smith’s career as a comedy writer, celebrity entertainer, and national "do gooder" all started when he lost everything.

"I got married, started my own business, moved to San Diego,  got a divorce," said Smith.  "I didn’t tell my parents for the first three, four months because I felt personally like a failure."

His three year marriage formally ended on Valentine’s Day 2012.

Smith doesn't want to go into detail about the divorce out of respect for his ex-wife, but he said the breakup left him with nothing. Emotionally he hit rock bottom.

"I thought the whole entire world would be mad at me or I would be ashamed and embarrassed and it was just a dark time," he said. 

Smith said his legion of social media followers got him through the day to day.

"They didn’t know I was going through a divorce but I would tweet jokes and funny stuff," he said. "Then I got a tweet from a guy at Comedy Central asking me what television show I wrote for."

Smith said he relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles after receiving a direct message from Tichina Arnold, an actress known for her roles on the 90s urban comedy “Martin” and on the sitcom based on the life of comedian Chris Rock “Everybody Hates Chris.” 

According to Smith, Arnold urged him to come to LA and figure it out.

Making it in Hollywood took longer than expected.

“I got my own apartment," he said. "I was working at Marriott and fell asleep on the job.  Lost that job, and so I was living in my car and then my car got repossessed. My bike actually got stolen and that was … literally I gave up.”

But Smith did something with his last few dollars that changed the course of his life.

“I had 20 bucks left to my name and I took the 20 dollars and I bought four pizzas and I started handing out slices to homeless people and eight other people in different cities started doing the same thing," he said.

From that random act of kindness, RAKE was born. 

Two days after the pizza giveaway,  Smith said he finally landed a TV writing gig with Cartoon Network. 

“Sometimes you have to go, as you say fall, and then get back up,” said Ricky’s father Richard Lee Smith.  “And maybe that was a blessing in disguise.  I don’t know what it is but it has helped him to be Ricky.


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