Alex Faizi Rawhani is a man of many talents. Widely known by his professional name – Dr. Smile – and his stage name – LexLeo – Alex is a dentist, a musician, a jeweller, a fashion designer, a skater, a model, and a university lecturer based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Raised in a racially segregated country by Iranian Baha’i parents, Alex learned early on that his life’s purpose involved serving the people of his country and building bonds of racial unity. Born into a society of extremes – extremes of wealth and poverty, extremes in the differences of standards in education, and extremes in racial division – Alex’s parents exposed him to the injustices in society, taught him to fight the wrongs that had been committed, and to work towards world unity at every opportunity:
O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose. May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law. Help them, O God, in their endeavor, and grant them strength to serve Thee. O God! Leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love. Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord. – Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 203.
Alex has always been a very active, creative, inquisitive person. Growing up, his parents encouraged him to problem solve and make things himself, rather than buy the things he wanted. This developed his capacity to work with his hands and broadened his ability to imagine what was possible. This enabled Alex to start focusing on how his talents could not only serve himself, but also his community. But when Alex completed high school he was very confused about which career path he should pursue, so he took a year off following his graduation to serve in Greece with Doctors of the World. This exposed him to a profession that he believed would directly help people and enabled him to continue working with his hands – dentistry. Despite having so many different interests, Alex believed that an individual must first pursue excellence in a field that they believe will help the most people. So upon returning home, Alex began to pursue a career in dentistry, earning him the title of Dr. Smile.
The chosen ones of God … should not look at the depraved condition of the society in which they live, nor at the evidences of moral degradation and frivolous conduct which the people around them display. They should not content themselves merely with relative distinction and excellence. Rather they should fix their gaze upon nobler heights by setting the counsels and exhortations of the Pen of Glory as their supreme goal. Then it will be readily realized how numerous are the stages that still remain to be traversed and how far off the desired goal lies – a goal which is none other than exemplifying heavenly morals and virtues. – Shoghi Effendi, from a 1924 letter to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tehran.
Today, Dr. Smile is a prominent face and voice in oral health, making regular appearances on South African television, radio and social media. Images of his patients, many of whom are known African celebrities, often make it to his @LexLeoDrsmile Instagram page, which has over 85,000 followers. Dr. Smile takes special care in treating everyone in his private practice, and also offers free dental care to those who need it most and don’t have the means, in a project called @ProjectSmileSA. Dr. Smile constantly pushes his knowledge of dentistry to greater heights, while also lecturing at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
@LexLeoMusic is Alex’s stage name and the title of his music project, one that he began to pursue once he completed his degree in Dentistry. His music is unlike anything else, rapping in English, Persian, Zulu, and Xhosa, in a genre that he has dubbed “AfroPersian.” His music directly fuses South African, West African, Niger and Gqom beats with Middle Eastern melodies and languages. His lyrics contain topics and themes that are personal to Alex, surrounding the concept of racial identity, service to humanity, the importance of education, racial unity, gender equality, and the search for truth. His music offers him an opportunity to break stereotypes and change the narrative of what it means to be South African and a world citizen. Alex believes that by creating clean and uplifting hip-hop he is able to tell his story and create popular music that will be received by the most vulnerable population – children and youth.
Alex is also an avid fashion and jewellery designer. His work in fashion and bespoke suit design began at an early age when he wanted to design his own clothes, and took off eight years ago when he started collaborating with Congolese master tailor and Bahai Raphael Mukendi. His jewellery design started about three years ago when he was asked by one of his patients to design custom grills – which are removable gold and diamond jewellery for teeth. It took off very quickly and Alex’s designs evolved in the form of custom rings and necklaces under the company name @ShohrehCustomMade, inspired by his late mother, Shohreh.
Alex is also known to use his large Instagram following (100K+) not only promote his work in the clinic and studio, but to also share his volunteer service to communities across Johannesburg. His Instagram feed is full of images of the smiling young faces, which he serves multiple times a week through various Baha’i-inspired programs and initiatives that focus on capacity building, moral empowerment, spiritual education and literacy. Alex is motivated to represent an element of consistency between his real life and how it’s reflected online, always inviting and inspiring his followers to learn more about how they can get involved.
In our conversation, Alex opens up about why he’s so transparent about his faith on social media and why he believes it’s his responsibility to share the origins of his beliefs with his ever-growing fan base on Instagram, saying “what’s the point of using social media if not to improve people’s lives?” He’s driven to change the narrative of how people use social media, moving away from an individualistic, self-centered approach toward finding ways users can be of service and inspire others.
We talk about how Alex balances his busy life with his services in the community, and how he strives to be of service in every dimension of his life. Believing that true growth comes through service and spiritual tests, Alex tries not to shy away from difficult circumstances, always looking ahead toward how it will contribute to his inner spiritual development. When it comes to his own projects, Alex often reflects on the Bahai writings and prayers to guide and inspire his purpose in life:
O God! Protect me from tests. Thou knowest full well that I have turned away from all things and freed myself of all thoughts. I have no occupation save mention of Thee and no aspiration save serving Thee. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a prayer revealed for Lua Getsinger.
We close our conversation by learning about Alex’s plans for the future. Unsurprisingly, there are many! Some include free mobile dentistry clinics, a new career in industrial design, more mix tapes and tours, and a new Dr. Smile!
To learn more about Alex and Dr Smile, visit @LexLeodrsmile
To learn more about Alex’s music, visit @LexLeoMusic
To learn more about Alex’s custom jewellery, visit @ShohrehCustomMade