How TikTok inadvertently created Scientology's first influencer.

Tom Cruise may be the most famous member of controversial religious group Scientology, but over on Hollywood Boulevard, there's a clean-cut, good-looking young man who could be coming for his crown.

Sebastian is often seen standing outside the Church of Scientology Information Centre, with information pamphlets in hand and a big smile on his face.

He's unwittingly become the adored face of Scientology, ironically thrust into the limelight by a group of protestors who have camped outside the Scientology centre to "raise awareness" of the group's alleged dark past and myriad transgressions.

Watch the trailer for Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie, a deep dive into the church. Post continues below.

Video via Stan.

In an in-depth Rolling Stone feature on the Scientology protests, a source formerly close to the church believes Sebastian is most likely what's known as a "body router" - aka an attractive young staffer tasked with inviting passersby to learn more about the church.

"Look at that smile, he has the best smile in the world," one protestor is heard saying in footage from the protests, which has been viewed nearly 18 million times on TikTok. 

Sebastian the TikTok sensation.

"We love you, Sebastian. We just don't love the cult that you're in," another protestor says. 

The fact that Sebastian has become a phenomenon on TikTok could cause problems for him with his church, according to former third-generation Scientologist Liz Gale. "Whatever he does is going to reflect on Scientology," she says. "So they're going to put as much control on him as possible."


For the most part, Sebastian doesn't engage with the TikTokers filming him, and he doesn't often bite back at their goading. But because of all the attention surrounding him, Gale worries that senior Scientology officials will subject him to extensive "auditing", a process of extreme questioning of a member.

Image: TikTok.

The people who helped make Sebastian "famous" are also concerned for his safety, with videos containing #FreeSebastian attracting 82.6 million views on the social media platform.


TikToker Jesse commented, "I feel like they're gonna end up moving Sebastian to a different location or he's gonna go back to work at the blue building😭", while Monica Perez103 asked, "I wonder... if all this attention he's getting, for them, it's being viewed as negative and he gets in trouble behind closed doors?? 🥺"

@realsebastianscientology free seb 🤭 #scientologist #scientology #scientologycult #sebastian #freesebastian #sebastianscientology #angelscientology ♬ som original - 𝕬 𝖗 𝖙 ★

Who's protesting Scientology?

Scientology has long been a controversial and often criticised religion, but in recent months, TikTokers have been particularly vocal about their concerns for anyone involved in the organisation. Protestors have been loitering outside the religion's Hollywood Boulevard location and streaming live on the platform as they heckle Scientology recruiters and try to convince them to leave the group. 

There are two people leading these protestors: William Gude, an LA-based activist who has an Instagram page called @FilmThePoliceLA, and young fitness model Jessica Palmadessa - a content creator boasting 1.1 million TikTok followers.

Gude's main issue with Scientology? He believes the recruiters use deceptive tactics to entice tourists to join the church, and he's been protesting against them since April last year, live streaming from outside their centre on TikTok and YouTube. He also taunts the staffers and tries to warn off tourists by yelling to them "It's a cult" in Spanish.

Karin Pouw, an international spokesperson for the church, describes Gude as "a dangerous individual who has a criminal record".

Gude confirmed to Rolling Stone that he has, in fact, been arrested several times in the past, once on drug charges when he was 19 years old, and again in 2021 for allegedly threatening a homeless man. "I love the fact that they're that desperate," Gude says of Scientology.


As for Palmadessa, her concerns are in line with Gude's, and she insists the movement against Scientology is to build awareness about the group's alleged wrongdoings and stop tourists from entering the building to the unknown. "We're telling them about it before they hear from the recruiters the lies that they tell," Palmadessa claims.

In recent months, the bold blonde's Instagram and TikTok accounts have been taken over by Scientology-centric content. Palmadessa has posted video after video of her "exposing the cult of Scientology", which includes her trying to speak to recruiters on the street, circling the building and approaching the church's security, and even touring inside the Scientology centre.

Pouw claims the protestors are "promoting harassing religious workers who are trying to do their jobs".

But Palmadessa disagrees. 

"The cops have pretty much been there every single night for weeks. They come, they literally say, 'They're doing nothing wrong,' we can peacefully protest all we want, and they leave. We're not doing anything illegal."

Could the obsession with Sebastian derail the protests?

Both Palmadessa and Gude have expressed concerns about the fixation on Sebastian, with Palmadessa uncomfortable over the way people in her comments discuss conspiracy theories about him.

Gude notes, "They've created their own fantasies about why he's there and why he does not want to be there, and how they have to help him. It's truly unhealthy."

He adds, "I've seen people literally grab him and say, 'I'm going to save you.' That's weird stuff. A lot of people are sort of out of control to the point where they seem like cult members."

Feature Image: TikTok; Getty.