Nursing student Chamani Gilmore found that straightening her smile didn’t just change the way others saw her. It changed her entire outlook and what she thought she could achieve. She’d put so much energy into helping others and serving her country – and now, she was finally doing something just for herself.
Growing up in Baltimore, she was a good kid with good grades – and a gap between her front teeth that “was big enough to kick a ball through.” But she grew up in a family torn apart by domestic violence and was homeless for a time. Often, she had to be the adult, taking care of her mother, putting the family’s needs before her own. And braces were far from affordable.
So Chamani never smiled. She avoided cameras too. “I wouldn’t take a picture to save my life,” she says.
“I was constantly trying to not smile.
And it’s hard when you feel like you have to be in a shell.”
But at 25, she decided to change her smile and her life.
She began researching the cost of fixing her teeth. Braces were still beyond her reach. But a SmileDirectClub online ad, promising she could get her teeth straightened for less than half the cost of traditional braces, caught her eye.
Chamani took the plunge and ordered a SmileDirectClub impression kit. She made the molds of her teeth, sent them back, got a prescription, and began saving for the $200 down payment.
Then she got an email from SmileDirectClub inviting her to enter their Gift of Grin contest. If she could tell them in an essay why she deserved a new smile, she could win a free smile treatment. She entered.
“I wrote about how all my life I have done for other people.” Chamani shared how she took care of her mom when she was a kid. How, as an adult, she helped her mom escape her abusive father. And how she spent 3 years serving her country in the Air Force.
“Fixing my smile would be the first time I did something for me,
completely focusing on my joy and my happiness.”
Her essay won – and Chamani got her aligners for free.
Chamani saw results, fast.
“Right at the 1-month mark, my front teeth were almost touching,” she says. Her friends and co-workers noticed too. “People said, ‘Is your face changing? Are you changing your teeth?’”
When she finished her treatment, Chamani couldn’t believe the transformation. The aligners had closed that gap, and a couple of whitening treatments had made her teeth as bright as alabaster.
“People tell me now that they didn’t talk to me because I never smiled. It’s a shame how many interactions didn’t happen because of my teeth.”
Now she had a movie-star smile and every reason to share it.
“Being uncomfortable with yourself is such a heavy burden,” she says. “I’m glad I don’t have it anymore.”
Her new confidence gave her the courage to pursue her long-term goal of becoming a midwife. She has started nursing school in Wilmington, North Carolina, with plans to get an associate degree, transfer to a 4-year school for an undergraduate nursing degree, and then complete a 3-year midwifery program.
“Changing my smile changed everything.
Now, anything I want to do, I have the confidence to do.”
“Fixing my smile has removed fear from my life,” Chamani says. “Since then, I’ve made more friends, I started school, I am in study groups, and all of these things are making me more successful. This is me moving forward in my life and taking the steps to be who I want to be.”