For someone who loves the spotlight, Stephen Lepore (a.k.a. Mr. Hollywood), who lives on the autism spectrum, took a while to come out of his shell.
His parents Kathleen and Glenn Lepore said, "Everything was great and it was like a year and a half or so and we thought is he not hearing us… losing the eye contact the whole bit so we had it looked into."
Stephen went on to say, "Back in September of 1999 I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 years old and the doctors told my mom and dad that I would never speak… and many years later I proved them wrong."
Finding his voice at age five was a major breakthrough for Stephen but not the last hurdle he would face.
Mom, Kathleen said, "He carries ear buds with him 24/7 because we know he might not like the sound in the restaurant but you have to you have try."
And that’s exactly what Stephen did, his parents exposed him to a host of extra-curricular activities like acting classes, surfing; and golf and track through the Special Olympics. He blossomed, winning a gold medal in the 2019 State Special Olympics for golf.
"I made a lot of friends that year showed a lot of courage and had a lot of fun and this baby I still love it today!" he said.
While Stephen hasn't made his big break yet he’s had several small roles and he’s thriving as a soap star in his own way, the founder of "Mr. Hollywood Soaps."
Stephen said in the two years of operation, business has been good, "We’ve sold a lot of autism ducks and regular duck soaps and unicorn duck soaps to a lot of people, they love them!"
Stephen’s Mom says not only does soap making keep him busy but it also gives him a chance to give back to his community and learn life skills at the same time.
"Stephen couldn’t tie his shoes up until he was 22 years old," she said. "No matter how we taught him, you know how he learned? Tying those soap bags over and over and over he finally learned to tie his shoes."
A portion of Stephen’s proceeds go to the Special Olympics. He also donates some of his creations to other local causes - inspiring others through his actions.
"He always says never give up you know just and dream big there’s so many things we never thought, you know we were told he wouldn’t do and we believed that too," said Kathleen.
He's a young man with a bright future and no shortage of dreams.