From his first Broadway performance in Rent to his Tony Award-Winning Performance in Hamilton, not many performers in my opinion have showed more passion in their performances onstage over the years then Leslie Odom Jr. That’s why the moment I had the opportunity to talk with him as a fellow actor meant the world to me.

Many of you might know Mr. Odom Jr. from his Nationwide commercials or his TV appearances on shows such as Smash and Law And Order SVU on NBC but for me his theatre roles have always made the most impact.

Growing up on the spectrum, my parents got me enrolled in Theatre from the age of 4 to help build on my social and communication abilities. I often didn’t understand the perspectives of others, making theatre even more of an amazing outlet for me to partake in. Until the age of 19 I performed in over 20 plays before becoming a consultant to bring a realistic portrayal of disability to our entertainment industry.

When I was able to attend a benefit event near my hometown where he was performing I knew I wanted to attend. The day of the event I was nervous knowing I would be potentially in the same room as one of my role models. Then I found out after his performances that night he was going to take a few questions.

Without hesitation, after he performed several songs from his new album, a Nat King Cole medley and a few songs from Hamilton, I was one of the first people to raise their hands to ask a question…

But before I could ask a question I had to get something off my chest.

I told Mr. Odom Jr. in that moment about how much I appreciated the passion he put in his performances. My mentees, many of who are younger children with special needs, I try to encourage them to use theatre as an outlet to help them progress. During these times I showed them videos of him on YouTube. His passion is something I reminded them.

Getting the opportunity to share with Mr. Odom Jr. about how his passion not only inspired me but other kids I work with meant the world to me. Many say that music is a language that connects the world together but for me that message has always been true for music and theatre. I only hope my mentees will continued to be inspired by these actors so they can achieve great things for years to come.