Yes, the Boston accent is real.
I was born, raised, and still live in East Boston. I am not from Marblehead, not from Lawrence, not from Lowell—but am one of the rare people who are from the city and still live here. Eastie is traditionally a working class community that has welcomed immigrants from around the world over the past century. Eastie has made me who I am. From the tight knit community that raised me, to the struggles of the working class, I’ve used my community, culture, and city grit to evolve into one of the city’s most popular social media influencers (even I still can’t believe it).
I truly cannot start this story without talking about East Boston. Typical of an Italian growing up here, I live in the same triple-decker house that my grandmother (“Nana”) bought back in the ‘70s. It is not uncommon for me to see at least 10 members of his family a day, from my 6 month old niece to my great uncle coming by for coffee and a cigar on the porch. The atmosphere is loud, loving and oftentimes chaotic. It is this day-to-day life in Nana’s house that fuels the creative concepts behind my popular TikTok and Instagram videos—depicting everything from obnoxious Italian dads to the addiction of Dunks iced coffee to interviewing die-hard Bruins fans. All my inspiration stems from my reality.
My grandparents and parents grew up in Eastie when it was a predominantly Italian neighborhood. Since then, it has evolved to include a new wave of Latin American families. Being the melting pot that it is, Eastie is home to some of the best food in the city. Shout out to the OG Italian food show stoppers, Santarpios and Rinos, and best sub and sandwich shops, Milanos, Dacoopas, and Royals. The Chinese food at Little Asia—a local stomping ground—also never disappoints. Neither does Chinese Dragon for late night takeout. And we can’t forget one of the best Mexican breakfasts in the city, Angela’s Cafe, and a fire Colombian restaurant, El Peñol.
And for those of you who don’t know: Eastie is home to Logan Airport. So, technically speaking, important figures from celebrities to athletes to presidents have touched down and driven through Eastie at some point. And even though those airplanes are LOUD (pausing movies while one is flying overhead is part of the day-to-day), Eastie is home to some of the most breathtaking waterfront views of the city.
Though Eastie is rapidly gentrifying, with property and rent prices rising higher than the condo buildings growing out of the lots we used to hang out in, I was blessed to grow up in the kind of tight knit neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, where there is a deep sense of pride, and where the friends you make are lifelong.
Most importantly, East Boston taught me some life lessons that have helped me work hard to get where I am today. Below, I’ll answer some questions about my journey from a city kid with a blue collar mindset to rising to the top of Boston’s social media world:
How do you feel East Boston has shaped you?
It taught me how to work for what I wanted—and reinforced that nothing is ever given to you. Growing up blue collar, it was instilled in me that working in labor or going to college to eventually work a 9-5 job were my only paths. Since childhood, the phrase “money doesn’t grow on trees” was a constant lesson—and a major blessing in disguise.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I went to college and realized how many peers not only grew up in all-white neighborhoods and knew only one way of living, but the fact that their parents wired weekly “allowance” money to fill their gas tanks and fund their social life. This was especially eye opening and made me realize how different some people actually lived and grew up and also how much of a blessing it was that I didn’t grow up that way. My blue collar mindset equipped me to handle everyday issues with more ease. I excelled at things as simple as time management—in highschool I had to complete my school work, go to hockey practice and then go to work at the funeral home from 4pm-9pm to make money.
I’ve reaped so many benefits from my blue collar lens—but the mindset also “pigeon holed me” and stunted my dreams and aspirations into a tiny box without me realizing it.
Can you talk more about the “blue collar stigma” and how you’ve tried to break it?
I think the blue collar stigma is something a lot of kids that grew up in Boston—or working class—face. It means limiting your post high school options to one of three career routes:
- Go to college, get a degree, TRY to find a 9-5 job.
- Go join a Union and work 40 hours a week and build a pension to retire at 65.
- Join the military.
Before I get into this, I first want to say: There is *nothing* wrong with taking any of these routes. They are dependable, respectable and reputable career choices for anyone to make. And I do respect all people who take these routes. The issue is with the limitation of options for kids like me.
It’s rare to find people taking these routes because it’s their “dream job” or because they’re truly genuinely passionate about it. Of course, there may be some people who are genuinely passionate about these choices, but I haven’t met any. 95% of my best friends I grew up with all have taken one of these routes—and while that is fine—I will tell you with 100% certainty that none of them are doing so because it’s their dream job.
Oftentimes, people need to take these routes to make immediate money after high school. I was lucky enough to have saved money from working in high school and had parents that helped support me in taking out loans to go to college. I realize that this in and of itself is a luxury that many people do not have. But I guarantee you, if you’re one of the people that don’t have the luxury of parents helping out or saving money, there is always some way to work on something you’re genuinely passionate about. Even if it’s 30 minutes a day before you go to bed every night, there is always more time if you really want it.
The main message I want to get across is: Always chase your dream and don’t get sucked into the mindset of doing what everyone else is doing because it’s comfortable. Get out of your comfort zone.
Can you tell us more about how you started in social media?
I was a junior at UMass Boston—almost a full year behind in credits, with a major that changed four times, and under the mounting pressure of loans. On top of it all, I most certainly was not finding my passion in college in the way we’re all told we’re supposed to.
It was spring of 2020, I was barely passing my four courses and struggling to figure out what the hell I wanted out of my life. I was in college because I didn’t want to fully commit to working a full-time union job (even though it seemed that was my only future job destination) and was waiting for something to come to me. Even if I had finished college by 24 with some bullshit major, I still had no clue what I could pursue for a job. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I wanted something to save me from this everyday reality of: WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE? HOW AM I GOING TO FEED MY FUTURE FAMILY? HOW DO I MAKE MY PARENTS PROUD? ULTIMATELY… HOW DO I MAKE SOME DECENT MONEY WITHOUT BEING MISERABLE EVERYDAY?
But—like many people—I could not find the answers.
When the pandemic hit, I downloaded some app I’d heard about called TikTok. Some platform that I can endlessly scroll on for entertainment to save me from quarantine boredom in my bedroom.
From the time I was 9 years old, I’d always liked making videos and seeing myself on camera. And after days of scrolling on TikTok, my urge to make videos reignited. Only this time I faced a different obstacle: the way people would perceive me.
I gave way too much of a shit what people thought of me. People who added no value to my life had this overwhelming power over me because I was scared of what they would think if I posted a video. And this is a major reason people will not explore and experience social media the way they truly want to. We live with so much social anxiety and societal pressure these days—knowing that someone, somewhere is judging us or assuming something negative about us. Social media aside, this is why so many people don’t do what genuinely makes them happy.
But on September 10th, 2020 I said: f*ck it. I posted my first ever TikTok video. I didn’t know it then, but leaning into the passion I had as a 9 year old was the best decision I ever made.
My first video was a light hearted commentary about people claiming to be “from Boston”, but aren’t actually from the city. A relatable thought that people from Boston experience all the time. The video amassed 100k views in 24 hours…and I was instantly hooked. I continued to make and post multiple videos every day and my follower count started booming. I gained 100,000 followers in one month and was ecstatic.
While my growing audience reaped benefits I never thought possible, there was also a new challenge of dealing with the judgment and negativity I feared. This was the first time I’d ever “put myself out there” on social media—and just in life overall. And while 90% of my comments were positive, it was the other 10% of negative reactions that opened up insecurities I never even realized I was dealing with.
The 10% of negative comments, direct messages and “word of mouth” around the city almost shattered my confidence completely. There were multiple times in the first few months of creating on TikTok where I almost deleted my account and gave up entirely. Even worse, A few of the people speaking down about me were actually some people I knew, with one I even considered being a close friend. It’s one thing to have some kid in Ohio who I don’t know say negative things about me, but it’s completely different when it’s someone you consider a friend—who knows so much about me and my life—to attack you for doing something you love.
Despite a couple of strained friendships during my social media rise, I persevered and continued posting videos—with my audience continuing to grow. One of my proudest milestones in life is when I surpassed 1 million followers on TikTok in just 11 months. Hitting that million has opened up so many doors that I never knew possible.
What message do you want to get across to young adults?
Figure out what makes you light up, and lean into that. Creativity isn’t something that is encouraged for Italian guys from Eastie. When your raised in the blue collar mentality, you may think you’re restricted to a few limiting options in life. You are not.
Making money and meeting your needs is real—but so isn’t your happiness. How can you incorporate things you love into your day to day life? How can you evolve it into a passion project? Something I’ve learned is that we all have something to offer and that will resonate with other people. You are not limited to the beliefs you are taught and the predetermined paths other people set for you.
Tommy Guarino has been an East Boston resident all of his life. The “Eastie” way and lessons he has learned from his family and the neighborhood will endure in him forever. As the world, and Boston, continues to evolve, Tommy has made it his mission to show people you can keep the tried and true “old school grit” and apply it to modern day social media and marketing with great results. Follow Tommy on IG and TikTok to see how!