When a Starbucks customer asks Toronto's famous 'dancing barista' for a selfie, Sam Forbes is happy to oblige. Having recently returned from an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the 17-year-old is basking in his newfound celebrity status - and not just because it means more customers for his signature Peppermint Mocha. We popped by the coffee shop to chat with Sam and his manager, Chris Ali, about their adventures in Hollywood, dancing on the job and their newfound positions as autism advocates.
"I think what this story's promoting is hope and inclusion," Sam, who has autism, tells Hello! when we sit down to chat. "People are seeing autism in a more positive light."
A fan of Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, the high school student says dancing behind the counter helps him focus on work. A customer's YouTube video of the barista in action went viral after autism advocate Carly Fleischmann shared it, and soon Sam and Chris were headed to Hollywood. "It was super overwhelming to see myself in Ellen's studio," Sam says.
The TV opportunity came less than a year after Chris changed Sam's life forever, taking chance on a teenager who was told he would never hold a job. The duo first met at Ontario's Camp Thrive, which teaches employment skills to young people with autism. Since then, Chris has enjoyed watching Sam come into his own. "He just seems like he's having fun," says Chris. "Sam brought excitement to the team and the community."
He's also chipping away at stereotypes with each day on the job. "It's wrong to say, 'This person can't work because they're autistic,'" Sam tells us. "That's beyond ridiculous."