razel smiling on wheel of fortune

Razel Zapanta ’21 is a testament to the fact that when you pursue your dreams, they really can come true. She is a two-time contestant on Wheel of Fortune, and has garnered a large following on Instagram by documenting her dental school journey, expressing her passion for creativity and science. She often calls herself a singing dentist, and recently sang the national anthem at a Phoenix Suns game. Zapanta continuously finds joy and fulfillment in her vocation, inspiring others with her optimism.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Zapanta first heard about Azusa Pacific University through her brother Raz Zapanta ’14. She fondly remembers APU’s friendly community making an impression on her from the start. “Everyone I met at APU was incredibly welcoming and I knew this could be my second home,” she said. In 2017, Zapanta began studying biology because of her love for science. “I enjoy learning about health, and at the same time I love art and creativity.” Zapanta fostered both passions during her time at APU. She was part of an acapella group that traveled across the country performing in schools and churches. “We sang worship songs and got to interact with kids to spread God’s love. It was such an enriching experience!”

Zapanta recognized an immense amount of growth in her spiritual, professional, and personal life in college. “Spiritually, APU helped me find my relationship with God,” she said. The mentors she met gave her the space and encouragement to discover her calling, assisting her through dental school applications and being there for her even when they couldn’t physically be present. The pandemic arrived during her junior year, which was a challenging season. Zapanta was a resident advisor in Trinity Hall, and is grateful for the deep connections she built with residents before their time was cut short. 

In 2020, Zapanta sent an audition video to Wheel of Fortune, and was surprised when she received a call back months later. Toward the end of her senior year, Zapanta represented APU during the game show’s college week. “Getting to be on one of my favorite shows was a dream come true!” she said. Zapanta’s vibrant energy is evident throughout the episode, and after solving a number of puzzles, her earnings included a MINI Cooper and a trip to the British Virgin Islands. “Being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune was a great way to celebrate my senior year.”

After graduating in 2021, Zapanta took a gap before beginning dental school at A.T. Still University– Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health. “My mom is a dentist. Growing up, I admired her work ethic and the way she instilled confidence in her patients. I realized that’s what I want to do as well,” she said. Zapanta considers dentistry a combination of art and science, because dental care can improve self-esteem. “I know a lot of people are scared of going to the dentist, so I hope to change that and make it a welcoming place.” Zapanta will graduate from dental school in 2026.

Zapanta started posting vlogs on Instagram as a fun way of recording her new academic adventures. “Students interested in going to dental school became inspired by my content, and I’m so glad it makes people happy,” she said. As an undergraduate, Zapanta was hesitant to apply to dental school in fear that her grades weren’t good enough, assuming she had to be perfect in order to succeed. “Grades are important, but what matters most is who you are.” She hopes her followers know how capable they are of following their goals.

Earlier this year, Wheel of Fortune invited Zapanta back to the show during “Fan Favorites” week. She was especially honored to return during legendary host Pat Sajack’s final season. “I was up against expert puzzle solvers so the games were challenging to figure out, but I had such a fun time!” 

Many of Zapanta’s dreams have come true at such a young age, but her character shows that this is just the starting point of an exciting journey ahead of her. As she keeps honing her skills as a dentist, creating engaging content, and singing beautifully, Zapanta’s career path embodies more than finding a job that pays the bills. Rather, she shows that your calling doesn’t have to be limited to one thing, but can include all the interests that bring you happiness.