An aspiring singer who once lived on the streets is one step closer to making his dream a reality thanks to the gift of a smile.
Ever since he was a child, 23-year-old Eric Jefferson hoped to make it big in Hollywood.
Growing up in Chicago's foster care system wasn't easy. So when Eric and his twin brother got a chance, they took a bus to Los Angeles hoping for a chance at a better future.
"I'm like, 'Oh I've got to get to Beverly Hills, Los Angeles,' " said Eric. "Soon as I got to LA it was reality. Boom!"
Eric and his brother ended up living on the streets of LA's skid row. The twins were rescued by Covenant House California, a shelter for homeless youth.
After landing a job at a supermarket, Eric still dreamed of a career in show business. But one thing was holding him back: a gap-toothed smile that made him self-conscious.
"I would pray, 'God bless me with braces.' I didn't know where I was gonna get them from," Eric said.
Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.
That's when he met Dr. Mahatab Partovi, a Beverly Hills orthodontist who offers free braces to troubled kids through Covenant House, the shelter that helped Eric and his brother.
Partovi knows firsthand how a less than perfect smile can cause low self-esteem. She was bullied as a buck- toothed girl growing up in Santa Monica. But after braces straightened her teeth, her outlook on life changed.
"When I got my braces off it was the best day of my life. I couldn't stop smiling," said Partovi. "I felt stronger, confident, like I could do anything."
Partovi wants to share that confidence with kids like Eric.
"These kids are fighters. They're strong. To give them one more tool to bring up their self-esteem is amazing," she said.
Eric believes Partovi is an answer to his prayers.
"The braces really helped with my depression," Eric said. "I'm still shocked and happy, and ever since I got braces... I've been having more confidence."
Eric now has his own apartment, and says that for the first time, he is hopeful about the future.
"I feel this is a step that God is really preparing me for something great," he said. "It's really preparing me for something big in the future. I can't see it. But I can feel it."