When Kheris Rogers was bullied because of her skin color in the first grade, she found strength in affirmations. Her mother helped build her confidence, and Kheris reminded herself daily that the only person’s opinion that mattered was her own.
With that new outlook, the saying that Kheris’ grandmother had been repeating to her and her sister took on a whole new meaning. That’s when Kheris, now 13, decided to start a clothing line dedicated to fighting against colorism and bullying.
“I was like, ‘wow, why am I dark, why don’t I become lighter?’ I wanted to stay in the bathtub one time so I could get lighter,” Kheris said. “When I told my mom about it, she started making me feel more comfortable in myself, saying affirmations in the mirror every day that I’m beautiful [and] it doesn’t matter what other people think of you — only what you think of yourself. You know that you’re smart, creative, special at the end of the day. And that’s basically what my message is behind Flexin’ in My Complexion.”
Kheris said she got the idea for the clothing line because her grandmother constantly told her and her sister that they were “flexing in their complexions.” So, Kheris and her sister Taylor acquired a screen printer and some t-shirts, and started stamping the phrase on clothing. The first batch of shirts, Kheris said, sold out in just 10 minutes. So began Kheris’ journey to being an anti-bullying and anti-colorism advocate.
The line has been worn by celebrities including Alicia Keys to Lupita Nyong’o, and has won Kheris honors like being named one of Teen Vogue’s21 Under 21 class of 2018, and being chosen to participate in a Lebron James campaign for Nike.
Now, Kheris has taken her message beyond the clothing line, going to speaking engagements and sharing her story with her peers on social media. This, she said, helps show other young people experiencing bullying, racism, or colorism that they aren’t alone. One way she helps her peers sturdy themselves against the words of their bullies is the same way she overcame her own detractors: with affirmations.
With so many young people becoming advocates not just for themselves but for their peers, Kheris said she has hope that the future will be ripe with confident young people like her.
“My vision for the future is everyone being themselves and loving themselves on the inside and out,” she said. “I just love my complexion, I love who I am — and everyone should.”
Culled from Teen Vogue