Toddler Dream

Glee 3D Movie: Meet Mini Warbler Kellen Sarmiento

Meet the pre-schooler stealing the spotlight in the ‘Glee’ 3D movie: ‘Mini Warbler’ Kellen Sarmiento.

Patrick McMullan

Kellen Sarmiento is living the toddler dream. With hissmooth moves, an adorable voice, and a tie down to his knees, the four-year-oldSan 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 ascene from Glee. That video now has more than 2 million views—a number that’ssure to climb when audiences get a glimpse of Kellen on the big screen in thisweekend’s Glee: The 3D Concert Movie.

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 tosatiate Kellen, who, his mom says, “is incredibly detail-oriented.” He’d do thenumber in a Warbler-inspired navy blue blazer, but still, something wasn’tquite right. Kellen wanted to make sure the his ensemble—down to a slit in theback of the blazer, buttons on shirt collars, and the color of piping—wereexactly right. His paternal grandmother got to sewing. “He knew there were onlytwo buttons on the blazer and that they were gold, but they weren’t on hisjacket. So he told his grandmother, ‘You need to change that,’” Emily recalled.

And there was one finishing touch—the tie. The Sarmientoswent to see the Glee concert tour in San Diego, where cameras in the audiencecaught a glimpse of Kellen, and the meticulous four-year-old noticed that thecolors 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, notrealizing that it was meant for an adult. Despite the fact that the accessoryhangs 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 renditionof “Teenage Dream,” which had brought in the highest first-week sales of anyGlee song at the time. “We video-taped him doing the dance, just like anyparent would,” Emily said. “But we didn’t want to put it on YouTube.” Afternudging from relatives, Emily finally acquiesced. “It was really only for themto 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 intheaters this weekend, Kellen’s miniature starpower will continue to climb. Buthe’s not moving to Hollywood anytime soon. “This is just what he likes to dofor fun. But if he wanted to pursue a career in entertainment, we’d supporthim,” Emily says.

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