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

  • Erick A-mag
    3/30/2019 - 03:01 p.m.

    "What you invest is what you harvest". People need to realize that they should treat others how they would like to be treated but yet they give less expecting more. Bullies tend to bully because of their insecurities, making others more insecure about themselves.

  • Azucena B-mag
    3/31/2019 - 07:45 a.m.

    the slogan that I would use would be this "they ignore you and they laugh at you and in the end you win" the slogan refers to that even if they make you feel bad and you suffer bullyng, the only person who can finish with that, is yourself, The power to stop being afraid is yours

  • Aldo B-mag
    3/31/2019 - 01:03 p.m.

    I firmly believe that racism must disappear completely from this world and see with another eyes indistinct to the other races because after all we are all human beings

  • Jaime R-mag
    3/31/2019 - 03:53 p.m.

    Nobody is worth more and nobody is worth less. No one is more than anyone, regardless of religion, color or race. We are all worth the same and we must be respected as what we are, humans

  • Maricel A-mag
    3/31/2019 - 05:26 p.m.

    from my point of view all people are equal only different social conditions but we are all human beings .silo that some lack criteria and discriminate against the color race

  • Issac F-mag
    3/31/2019 - 09:14 p.m.

    ¡we are unique in a unique world!

    we are the most incredible in the world so we dont have to have prejudices between us.

  • Monica J-mag
    3/31/2019 - 11:21 p.m.

    "Beauty has no color"
    the color of your skin does not make you less
    nor worse person
    what identifies you is who you are inside

  • LeeAnnH-dec
    5/16/2019 - 12:50 p.m.

    I do not know what my slogan would be if I was to make on for an anti-bullying message. All i know is that if you are getting bullied or you know someone who is, go tell an adult and do not be bystander. Help the victim.

  • AlyssaF-dec
    5/21/2019 - 11:11 a.m.

    This is really nice and it does give signs of hope. It shows everyone they can fight against bullying.

  • AustinM-dec1
    5/23/2019 - 08:25 a.m.

    I liked this article because it was interesting.

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