Executive Vice President, Public Affairs, and Chief of Staff, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, TV Land, Noggin and Spike TV, New York City
What began as a politically charged career for Marva Smalls—she was a page for South Carolina’s state legislature during college, then served as chief of staff for U.S. Congressman Robin Tallon of South Carolina—morphed into one motivated by a love for children. Executive vice president of public affairs and chief of staff for Nickelodeon and its ancillary businesses, Smalls has helped win recognition for Nickelodeon’s pro-social campaigns from presidential administrations and has garnered the support of top names in the entertainment industry. She helped launch the Let’s Just Play campaign, and a grassroots effort with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to get children more physically active, and spearheaded The Big Help, which for more than nine years empowered more than 40 million children to pledge more than 380 million hours of volunteer service to their communities.
At the University of South Carolina, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public administration, Smalls organized the Youth in College division and the first college chapter of the NAACP. At Nickelodeon she coordinates financial resources, personnel and facilities for the New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and international offices, while managing all meetings of the company’s executive team.
Smalls describes herself as “fiercely loyal” to her family and friends. The civil rights activities of her mother, other family members, politicians and civil rights leaders gave her the impetus to succeed professionally, she says.
She believes strongly in putting children first and freely gives her time to them through various community service organizations. “Service is the rent you pay for living,” she says, quoting Marion Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund and the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi state bar. Perhaps that conviction will lead her to what she would most like to accomplish: to fund a foundation that would expose rural children to resources beyond their own environment.