Why Grammy winner Lenny Kravitz got into the dental care biz

Kravitz, the Grammy-winning rock star behind hits like “Fly Away,” “American Woman,” and, yes, “It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over,” is also the chief creative officer at Twice, a plant-based toothpaste brand that was created in 2018. On Tuesday, Twice will launch a suite of newly branded products, including mouthwash, a whitening pen, floss, and a good old toothbrush, all of which will cost anywhere from $7 to $28. The ethos is simple: “Really, we’re representing love,” Kravitz tells Fast Company.

Twice’s products are vegan, cruelty-free, and come without sulfates, SLS, gluten, and artificial ingredients. When it launched as a direct-to-consumer brand, Twice looked like every other high-end brand of toothpaste: a white tube with the brand name spelled out in a bright, playful font. Next week, it will rebrand with vibrant yellow packaging—a traditionally verboten color in dental care. “Yellow is yellow teeth,” cofounder and chief brand officer Cody Levine says. (Cody’s brother, Julian, is the other founder.)

For Kravitz, Twice is not so much a profit play as it is a means to a philanthropic end. When Twice launched, it promised to donate 10% of profits to the Glo Good Foundation, a nonprofit run by Jonathan Levine, Kravitz’s dentist (and Cody and Julian’s father). The foundation provides free dental care and education to people in under-resourced areas. While Twice is not profitable yet, the company is in the meantime donating products to the organization. Below, Kravitz talks more about how the company came to be and explains the thinking behind the new branding.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Lenny Kravitz on the origin of Twice, as told to Fast Company:

Cody and Julian’s father became my dentist in New York and we became friendly. And I’m interested in the medical field in general. I have several friends who are doctors and I find it fascinating. I invited [the Levines] down to the Bahamas for a visit. Because [Jonathan is] A dentist, I started telling him that we didn’t have the care that we needed there and that I had so many friends who were having really critical issues with their mouths. I [told] him a story about a guy who I’ve known forever growing up down there and he works with me. And he had a really bad tooth (or a couple of them) decaying in his mouth. I saw him putting black pepper into the hole in his tooth and then tapping it with a rolled-up matchbook cover that he was plugging it with. And I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Oh man, I have this really horrible, horrible, toothache.”

Dr. Levine [couldn’t believe it]. I said, “I’m telling you, people here are going through some serious issues, and . . . Instead of me talking about it, let me just show you.” So we jumped into my Jeep and we drove into the settlement. And I’m stopping people I know on the street and saying, “Hey, how are you doing, man? How’s your mouth doing? Are you having any problems?” And they of course looked at me very strangely. Why he asking these questions with two other people in the car? And I said this gentleman is an amazing dentist and just wants to know what you’re going through and if you’re having any problems.

Everybody we talked to started saying, “Oh man, I’ve got this, I’ve got that,” and the hood of my Jeep became an examination room. People were leaning back on the hood with their mouths open. Doc had brought the thing he puts on his glasses . . . the binocular kind of thing that [he uses] to look into [his patients’] mouths. And what he was seeing was pretty mind-blowing to him, just the decay, the rot, the pain, the really critical problems. And then talking to people—grown people—saying they didn’t have a toothbrush. One guy talked about drinking so many bottles of soda a day. And we do have certain problems down there with the food that people eat, because they’ve grown accustomed to this quote, unquote “American convenience diet.” People there used to fish and have gardens. . . . Our grandparents and our great-grandparents all ate out of gardens and fished and ate fresh, whole foods, and now people eat all these processed foods and sweets and sugar.

Anyway, so we got back to my place and we discussed all the things that we had seen. And he was really affected by it. And I was really affected by it. And right on the spot, I said, “What can we do? If I help make it possible, can we do something?” And the answer was yes.

Immediately we got into putting this mission together, buying the equipment, getting all the things down there that we needed to set up a clinic. And doc came down with, I don’t remember the first year, it was 30 or so top doctors. And we served the people and it was the most amazing experience to see people getting their oral health, getting their smile back. People who hadn’t smiled in years or were embarrassed to speak because they didn’t want to show what was going on in their mouths . . . if they were missing teeth.

It was beautiful because it was just an organic thing that happened. Cody and Julian came down and witnessed all of this. They had been on other missions with their parents, including in Africa. They were both in different fields and I think it was a moment of seeing firsthand what your parents do and how effective it is, and they were so proud of it. And I think it really opened their eyes to wanting to become more involved. Through all of this the idea came to start a line of products that would be superior and that would be something we could use to help raise money to continue doing these missions.

We know what’s on the shelf; we know the products that exist and how can we separate ourselves and be different. The whole idea about yellow, which is not seen on the shelf [with oral care packaging]—we see it as representing sunshine and love and light. And we use only the best ingredients. We’re not putting harmful additives and things in our products. And, really, we’re representing love. It sounds very sort of esoteric like that, but this is about humanity. This is about love. This is about having everybody be included. We’re not just representing the textbook mouth. A healthy mouth comes in all kinds of shapes and patterns and formations. So we’re representing everybody.

The whole thing is about love because the smile is the beginning of communication in so many instances. You know, if I walk up to you or I see you on the street, you don’t know me, but if I look at you and I smile at you, that is the beginning of the conversation. And that’s the beginning of everything. Having your oral health and having your smile intact and you feeling good opens the door to further expressing love and unity and all of those beautiful things that we talk about.

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