08.12.11

Glee’s 4-Year-Old Scene Stealer

Kellen Sarmiento, a San Diego pre-schooler, steals the show in this weekend’s ‘Glee’ 3D movie with his smooth moves inspired by the series’ Warblers. Just two months after posting his video on YouTube, he’s received more than 2 million hits. His mom reveals how he came to be the ‘Mini Warbler.’

Kellen Sarmiento is living the toddler dream. With his smooth moves, an adorable voice, and a tie down to his knees, the four-year-old San Diego native popped into America’s consciousness in June, when his mother, Emily Sarmiento, posted a video of him of him singing and dancing along to a scene from Glee. That video now has more than 2 million views—a number that’s sure to climb when audiences get a glimpse of Kellen on the big screen in this weekend’s Glee: The 3D Concert Movie.

Video screenshot

The toddler has been a fan of the Fox musical dramedy since the ripe old age of two, along with his self-proclaimed “Gleeky” parents. But when Blaine—a gay student from a rival glee club called the Dalton Academy Warblers, played by Darren Criss—came on the screen in Season 2 in November 2010, Kellen’s interest piqued. Blaine’s first musical number, a cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” soon became the most-heard song in the Sarmiento household.  “He just really fell in love with it,” his mom, Emily, who works in accounting, told The Daily Beast. Kellen would constantly watch the scene on his parents’ iPhones and within two weeks, he practically had the moves down. His aunt, Lilian, who lives with the nuclear family of three, often served as his back-up dancer. But Kellen’s mom says that no one in his family is particularly musically inclined.

Impeccable choreography, however, wasn’t enough to satiate Kellen, who, his mom says, “is incredibly detail-oriented.” He’d do the number in a Warbler-inspired navy blue blazer, but still, something wasn’t quite right. Kellen wanted to make sure the his ensemble—down to a slit in the back of the blazer, buttons on shirt collars, and the color of piping—were exactly right. His paternal grandmother got to sewing. “He knew there were only two buttons on the blazer and that they were gold, but they weren’t on his jacket. So he told his grandmother, ‘You need to change that,’” Emily recalled.

And there was one finishing touch—the tie. The Sarmientos went to see the Glee concert tour in San Diego, where cameras in the audience caught a glimpse of Kellen, and the meticulous four-year-old noticed that the colors of his children’s tie weren’t quite right. “That’s not what they wear, Mom,” Emily recalled him saying. So she ordered him another online, not realizing that it was meant for an adult. Despite the fact that the accessory hangs down to his knees, Kellen was pleased with his matching tie—and finally, ready for the spotlight.

Family and friends were eager to see Kellen’s rendition of “Teenage Dream,” which had brought in the highest first-week sales of any Glee song at the time. “We video-taped him doing the dance, just like any parent would,” Emily said. “But we didn’t want to put it on YouTube.” After nudging from relatives, Emily finally acquiesced. “It was really only for them to see,” she said. “I never expected for it to become this viral sensation!”

The day after she posted the video, the actor Kellen was emulating caught wind of what was making the inbox and Twitter rounds. “I have been replaced. Blaine Anderson, move over...” Darren Criss tweeted,” with a link to Kellen’s video. “Putting us Warblers to shame, you handsome devil!” The tweet—and Kellen—spread quickly and the toddler’s dad, Mark, who works for a casino, realized his son had gone viral.

The typically introverted Kellen was unfazedd by his newfound fame. When he went to see Glee on tour for the second time—after his second YouTube video of The Warblers’ “Raise Your Glass” had posted— fans were coming up to him, asking to take pictures with the toddler the Internet dubbed the “Mini Warbler.” “He was pretty cool about it,” his mom said, “which was weird because he’s usually so shy.”

Emily was soon contacted by producers of a Glee concert movie, asking for permission to use the footage of Kellen dancing along at the San Diego concert for the film. Soon enough, she was heading to L.A. with her son and husband to walk the red carpet at the Glee: The 3D Concert Movie’s Aug. 6 premiere. It was a dream come true for Kellen, who met many of the film’s stars, including Criss. Still, Emily said her “mellow” son kept his cool, a la the ever-so suave Blaine, even when he saw his face on the big screen. “I think he was just shocked and overwhelmed,” she said. “But he was completely fixated on the movie—and of course, he was dancing in his chair.”

As more Gleeks see their small screen favorites in theaters this weekend, Kellen’s miniature starpower will continue to climb. But he’s not moving to Hollywood anytime soon. “This is just what he likes to do for fun. But if he wanted to pursue a career in entertainment, we’d support him,” Emily says.

For now, Kellen is just preparing for his next big role—kindergarten in September.