Gay Couple Juan and Gee Smalls are Partners in Life and Business
In an exclusive interview with The Advocate, Atlanta power couple Juan and Gee Smalls dish on their recipe for success in love and business. The co-owners of Virgil's Gullah Kitchen and Bar in College Park, Georgia and the founders of The Gentleman's Foundation, a non-profit that "provides mentorship and support for GBTQ and same-gender-loving men," the pair have been a force in the Atlanta LGBTQ community for years, with Virgil's often doubling as a restaurant and de-facto Black LGBTQ community space in the absence of
an official center. The pair shares what it means to be labeled a power couple, their initial rejection of the title and more with The Advocate.
GEE: I have always felt it to be a superficial title, so it was one I’d often reject. I don’t do that anymore. It’s not because of the “things” we have achieved together, or the fact that we look fly together—we do!—but it is because of the way we have held each other since meeting over 11 years ago. The power comes from drying away tears and healing old wounds. It comes from feeling secure with one another with only $10 in the bank. It comes from being loved and accepted even on darker days. It is in telling each other the truth, even when it may hurt the other person. It is in loving them even though they hurt you. It is in knowing that shit ain’t 50-50, but 100-100. It is eliminating people from your life that don’t wish the best for your relationship. It is in knowing that the 80-20 rule is real and that your partner cannot be everything to you.
It’s about embracing the ways each other constantly change and express themselves. To be a power couple is to hold each other accountable. It is to challenge one another. It is to forgive repeatedly. It is to ask for forgiveness even more. Power knows that you both deserve everything you desire, and you do everything to ensure each other receives it.
Opening a restaurant must bring added stress to your relationship. How do you manage that?
JUAN: If we allow each other to be ourselves, we will work well together. We can get through anything if we make the commitment to get through it—when we honor each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are there to pick up the pieces when the other falls..... We are not husbands. We are life partners..... We have worked together for years...[and] have identified our roles...and were very specific. So, we honor and trust one another, which is our recipe for success.
What are you most proud of that the two of you have accomplished together?
JUAN: We are most proud of the man Little Gee has become. Gee had a son when we met from a previous relationship. He was 7 years old when we got together, and he is almost 18 years old today. Little Gee is such an intelligent and artistic young man. We see the wisdom we worked to [instill] in him. That’s our greatest achievement. Second to that is how we’ve grown to relate to one another.... I no longer hold him accountable for my happiness and he doesn’t hold me accountable for his. I think it makes life just so much greater when you take responsibility for yourself and you come together with someone who takes responsibility for themselves and you create together…. I want to be liberated and I want my partner to be the same.
You can read the full interview here.