Flexin’ in her Complexion: Bullied girl a messenger of hope In this Dec. 19, 2018 photo, social media personality Kheris Rogers poses for a portrait in Los Angeles. Rogers launched her own fashion line with T-shirts sporting, "Flexin' in My Complexion," along with backpacks reading "The Miseducation of Melanin" and other apparel and accessories. (Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)
Flexin’ in her Complexion: Bullied girl a messenger of hope
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Kheris Rogers was in the first grade. She was in a predominantly white private school. It was in Los Angeles. She felt the bite of racism among her peers. She was being bullied because of her dark skin. She tearfully kept it to herself. Eventually, she turned to her older sister, Taylor Pollard. And she switched to a more diverse school. There, colorism among fellow African-American students surprised and confused her.

Her young sister's self-esteem was bruised. Then Taylor inadvertently launched Kheris to social media fame in 2017. She posted a photo of the girl on Twitter. She was dressed up for a fashion show. She used their beloved grandmother's down-home words for a hashtag: "Flexininhercomplexion."

Soon, Kheris had her own Twitter and Instagram accounts (@KherisPoppin). She was posting photo shoots of herself that she and Taylor created. Her own fashion line followed. This included  T-shirts sporting her tagline, "Flexin' in My Complexion." Then came backpacks reading "The Miseducation of Melanin." She also created other apparel and accessories.

Lupita Nyong'o posted a photo of herself wearing a black version of the shirt with bright yellow letters. She was supporting Kheris. Whoopi Goldberg sported one while attending the Rodarte show. That was at New York Fashion Week in September. Alicia Keys lauded her black girl magic.

While the words of her tormenters no longer sting, they haven't been forgotten. The behavior wasn't restricted to children, either.

"The kids would always call me names," said Kheris, now 12. She spoke with The Associated Press in an interview. "They would always tease me for my dark-skin complexion. They used to call me dead roach and say I've been in the oven too long. When I really knew I was being bullied because of my color was when my teacher handed me a black crayon instead of a brown crayon to draw our portraits for parent conferences."

Taylor is 24 and is now Kheris' manager. She suspected something was amiss and Kheris finally told her family.

"I had no friends. I was only invited to one of the birthday parties that they had. Everybody else was invited and I wasn't," Kheris recalled.

Now in middle school, things are more than just a little looking up.

Kheris was chosen as one of Teen Vogue's "21 Under 21" inspiring girls and femmes of 2018 and attended the magazine's teen summit. She was picked by LeBron James as one of 16 people to help mark his 16th shoe release with Nike, modeling in ads for the company. She's been featured in a spread in Essence magazine. She walked the runway of "America's Next Top Model" after Tyra Banks learned of her plight.

She has shown her own line in Harlem during New York Fashion Week. And she hasn't hit the eighth grade yet.

Julee Wilson, fashion and beauty director for Essence magazine, called support for Kheris "both an honor and responsibility."

She added: "To stand in the face of society's narrow beauty standards isn't an easy task, and she's doing it with an incredible amount of grace. We can't wait to see how Kheris pushes the 'Flexin' in My Complexion movement forward in the future. There's no doubt in our minds that she'll continue to remind the world that Black is incredibly beautiful."

Her mom Erika Pollard is a social worker. She said Kheris travels the country speaking at conferences about empowerment.

"As a parent, of course, you know, it was heartbreaking, but it made us stronger," she said of the rough years. "It pulled us together as a family because it's something that we had to conquer together. Now she's making a positive difference within her community, which I'm so proud of at such a young age."

Kheris said she now considers her life a mission.

"Flexin' in My Complexion isn't just about me," she said. "It's about every brown, dark, freckled, fair-skinned person who wants to tell the world, 'I am more than just the color of skin.'"

She hopes to spread her message across the world.

"I want to be a spokesperson for racism and colorism (issues)," she said.

Kheris now has lots of friends as a seventh-grader and knows exactly how to handle bullies: "Back off because I'm flexin' in my complexion and it doesn't matter what you think about me. It matters what I think about myself."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
If you created a slogan for an anti-bullying message, what would it be and why?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (20)
  • Cinthia R-mag
    3/27/2019 - 01:52 p.m.

    It is a very difficult question, but i think it would be "no bullying, grow up" because in my point of view, critize people just because they are different is cause you are inmature and you don't know anything about respect to others.

  • Yadira C-mag1
    3/27/2019 - 09:41 p.m.


    "We are all equal and we are worth the same" we are equal regardless of sex, race, religion, social status and any other personal aspect we are all equal and we are worth the same. We should not discriminate against someone because of their appearance because sometimes we only judge and we do not give ourselves the time to know that person.

  • Angel R1
    3/28/2019 - 03:46 p.m.

    "As you laugh at me, others laugh at you for me"
    because: as you laugh at my shortcomings others laugh at you without me realizing yours

  • Nicolas S-mag
    3/29/2019 - 03:39 p.m.

    The message that I would give is that we are all the same no matter the social class or the skin color. we must respect others so that they respect us all we are human the same species and we must understand it.

  • Jaqueline V-mag
    3/29/2019 - 10:26 p.m.

    Humiliating someone does not make you strong and powerful.
    it only makes you miserable.
    I would put that phrase because it gives a clear message and because it is true that feeling superior to someone else is to pretend that life is so sad that you have

  • Guadalupe C-mag
    3/29/2019 - 11:08 p.m.

    "the difference makes us equal" if we focus on knowing people by their thoughts, feelings, the world would be different, there would be no discrimination, nor abuse. We have to educate our children with values ??so that they respect their peers, regardless of their skin color.

  • Nancy M-mag
    3/29/2019 - 11:50 p.m.

    DO NOT BE AFRAID, TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.

    Because a group is stronger than a single person

  • Blanca A-mag
    3/30/2019 - 12:05 a.m.

    as long as there is a light on the road you have to follow.

    there is always someone who can help you, you just have to communicate and not be quiet

  • Dassaed S-mag
    3/30/2019 - 01:03 a.m.

    If I create a slogan, it will be to support people of all ages who suffer from racism and discrimination, because when they suffer this type of abuse it is the people who suffer from inside that can get depressed and sometimes take their own lives, the intention of the slogan would be to encourage people and make them strong in the face of adversity. WE ARE ALL EQUAL, TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.

  • Nicolas A-mag
    3/30/2019 - 01:29 a.m.

    no to discrimination kheris has been a great example, because despite all the ridicule and mistreatment by her colleagues, she knew ha to vatue herself and aceept herself as she is, thanks to great people who supported her since they knew her story.

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