Dr Smile

Seeing stars with celebrity dentist Alexander Faizi Rawhani

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Andile Phewa 

Johannesburg dentist Alexander Faizi Rawhani, known as "Dr Smile" or "Lexleo", first hand-crafted a set of grillz for Scoop Makhathini three years ago. Since then his clientele has grown to include the likes of AKA, Anatii, Riky Rick, Okmalumkoolkat, Burnaboy, Nasty C, Cassper Nyovest, Maps Mopanyane, Amanda Du Pont, Chad Saaiman, Boity, Minnie Dlamini, Pearl Thusi, Bonang, Terry Pheto, Shekina and Vanessa Mdee, all of whom rely on Lex to maintain their award-winning smiles.

More than a dentist, Lex is also a model, skateboarder, breakdancer, musician and humanitarian, and after factoring in all of these things you begin to wonder why someone with a skill set like his even gravitated towards dentistry in the first place. After all, statistically the profession has the highest suicide rate in the world and is usually associated with murdering lions (Cecil #neverforget), not cool guys in fresh kicks.

“Dentistry for me was never something I had planned for, and in all honesty I hadn't even considered it until halfway through my gap year. Throughout high school and up until matric, I had wanted to do so many different things, from architecture to business to marketing to advertising to medicine, but I never really knew what I actually wanted to do.”

Lex first considered dentistry while volunteering with Médecins Sans Frontières in Greece. Raised to serve humanity, it was while working with refugees and prisoners of war that he decided to enter into a career where he could literally make people smile on a regular basis. 

The flashiest of these smiles belong to those who visit Dr Smile for the mouth jewellery – grillz with a starting price of R25 000.

“Grillz have been a special project of mine for the last four years now, since Scoop came to me for the very first set. I have got to the point where I only use premium materials such as 18 karat gold and high-quality diamonds and gems.”

The most recent set Dr Smile did for Nasty C were fire and you should scroll through @DrSmileLexLeo to see these and the other pieces he’s done and for whom. Curious as to whether it’s any different working on the mouths of the famous, we also wanted to know if working with all these people has resulted in Lex becoming something of a celebrity himself.

“I wouldn't call myself a celebrity yet, I think I still have a long way to go for that. Up to now people have shown a lot of love and kindness and I'm very grateful for that. In the broader sense though, I’m a dentist who works on celebrities, and I'm lucky enough to be given that celebrity dentist title.”

His job doesn’t define him though, and while Lex still dabbles in the pursuits that he threw himself into as a lad, skateboarding and breakdancing, it’s his passion for music in which he mainly invests himself these days. Despite only pursuing music seriously after he graduated his undergrad degree, Lex’s journey being slightly interrupted again during his masters degree. Now that he’s graduated he’s looking to release an album in the new year.

But how does the good doctor manage to fit it all in; what’s the secret?

“There are no secrets. I always tell my students that if they prioritise service to humanity in whatever aspect of their life they are seeking to develop, the rest comes naturally and I have no doubt success will be achieved.”

A lecturer at Wits since 2013, Lex finished his masters in June and believes that tertiary education is a beautiful thing that enables those fortunate enough to study to constantly push themselves, better themselves, overcome challenges and help others to do the same.

“Being a student and lecturer was rather interesting, especially over the Fees Must Fall period, but it was definitely an experience I would not take back. Any profession which enables you to help and educate others is a beautiful thing.”

As chairman of the junior board of directors at youth marketing agency HDI from 2003 till 2007, Lex is now able to apply the skills he picked up here to all aspects of his large life. With a better understanding of brands and branding, Lex has realised that just by being himself – cool-guy extra mural activities, famous friends and a distinct style – he’s able to stand out from the crowd.

“Don't be scared to change your dress code every day. Nobody wants to see the same thing. Neither does someone feel the same every day. I can literally change from doctor to skater to hip-hop head to model to GQ man to farm boy to skhothane in a week. Just enjoy it and forget about the haters.”

That’s a reality of the fame game – there will be haters, especially when doing as much as Lex does in so many different spheres. However, by constantly consulting and studying the Bahá'í writings Lex is able to stay strong when things aren’t working out for him the way he’d want them to.

“Know that you are where you are not by chance but by the design of your creator, for your development and for the development of those around you." ~ 'Abdu’l-Baha

It’s this quote that Lex turns to when he needs to remind himself of his place and purpose. And it's these Bahá'í words that Lex lives by, helping those around him in order to fulfil himself, and that’s something to smile about.