By Darlene Donloe
WESTCHESTER — At the age of 16, Kheris Rogers is already an author, fashion mogul, anti-bullying advocate and CEO of the Kheris Rogers Foundation.
On Feb. 11, she will mark Black History Month by hosting her foundation’s second “High Vibration” Teen Summit at Loyola Marymount University.
The free event is developed for youth ages 14-18.
Rogers said the programming was designed to offer a safe space for teens to engage in open dialogue around topics of importance to that age group.
“High Vibration,” also hosted by the Jenesse Center, will focus on the effects constant exposure to social media has on the self-esteem and relationship-building skills of high school-aged youth. Sessions offered via live stream will allow teens everywhere to engage and participate virtually.
Rogers, a junior in high school who is home schooled, said while social media will be addressed at the summit, so will a number of subjects, including anxiety, depression, healthy relationships and the entertainment industry.
“I chose these topics,” said Rogers, who wants to study business at USC, UCLA or a historically Black college or university. “These are important topics that young teens go through, especially growing up around social media. It’s about loving yourself. This is going to be an annual thing. Why not have an event where we have these different conversations? After the event, the kids can have a tour of the college.”
Rogers and her family created the Kheris Rogers Foundation in 2019 because they wanted to help people.
“We were fortunate to be able to give back to people,” Rogers said. “We have always had the desire to help people. We did a back-to-school drive in July 2019 that was successful. We gave to more than 1,000 families. We gave school supplies, toiletries and some other things. We know how it feels not to have what you want. It feels great to be able to give back.”
Six years ago, Rogers’ life changed dramatically. Ironically, Rogers, who has a beautiful chocolate skin tone, was bullied at school by kids who made fun of her dark skin.
“Growing up, I didn’t have a voice,” Rogers said. “As a dark-skinned woman, not having that representation can take a toll on you. Some kids have said I inspired them and saved their lives. Now, I’m telling my story. I realize now I wasn’t alone when I thought I was.”
Rogers, a fierce anti-bullying advocate, said the bullying was about racism and colorism.
“It’s unnecessary,” she said. “I didn’t know what colorism was. I was in the fifth grade when I finally realized it. I was being teased by someone of my own race. We are all the same people. We should all love each other.”
Rogers thinks it’s “crazy” that racism is still prevalent.
“It’s in front of our faces every single day,” she said. “We have had so many advocates speak up. They have been inspirational. Still, there is not enough change.”
When it came to the color of her skin, Rogers said she, too, had to come to terms with her dark complexion.
“At home I was outgoing,” she said. “In public, I didn’t love myself or my skin color. I thought I was too dark. I thought I looked different.
“I had no self-confidence. I was around kids every day who were telling me I was too dark to hang around them. It can bring you down. Now, though, I’m obsessed with myself.”
Rogers said the bullying she endured became the motivation to launch her apparel brand Flexin’ In My Complexion.
“I went to a predominantly white school in the first grade,” she said. “It hurt my esteem. The idea for Flexin’ initially started when my sister posted a picture of me on Twitter with the hashtag, ‘Flexin’ in her Complexion.’ It went viral.
“I thought to myself, why not start a clothing line to inspire others to love everything about themselves? It doesn’t matter what others think of you.”
The clothing line, which caught the eye of celebrity supporters like Lupita Nyong’o, Alicia Keys, Whoopi Goldberg, Ciara, LeBron James, and Taraji P. Henson, champions self-love, self-worth and representation for Black girls and women. It includes clothes you can dress up or dress down, including daywear, hoodies, and T-shirts. Rogers said the brand went viral.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “I didn’t believe it. Now I’m realizing what was happening. It was a crazy experience.”
Since the launch, Rogers, who is now represented by LA Models, made history as one of the youngest designers to ever debut a line at New York Fashion Week.
“The experience at New York Fashion Week was crazy,” Rogers said. “It was the best experience ever. It was surreal to be the youngest to ever debut at Fashion Week. I want to do it again. I’ve always had a love for fashion. It’s been a dream of mine.”
Now that Rogers has been able to see her own dreams come to fruition, she travels and does speaking engagements to encourage others to do the same.
“I’ve never seen a teen entrepreneur my age,” she said. “I’m showing kids they can do it — if I can do it. Do some research. Read stories on how people got to where they are today. Do something that you love. No one can stop you but yourself.”
Rogers, who was on 360 Magazine’s “Most Interesting” list, listens to her own advice, which is why two years ago, she decided to write a children’s book called “Shine Bright” (HarperCollins).
“I wanted to write it because kids need to know about colorism and racism at a young age,” Rogers said. “It starts young. Showing these kids what the real world is like. This is an important topic to talk about. Writing it was very hard. Trying to tell stories in a way that kids will understand. I want to write another one.”
Everything seems to be going her way. In fact, Rogers hints at yet another “good deal coming.”
“I can’t talk about it,” she said. “What I can say is that it all feels good. I want to start looking at different buildings so I can have my own clothing store. I’m not sure what I want to do when I get older. My goal is to retire at age 21. I like working and keeping busy. I doubt it will happen.”
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.