At 13 years old, Kheris Rogers has already learned what others spend decades trying to figure out: self-love. Now, she's on a mission to spread the word. Well, four very specific words.
Enter "flexin' in my complexion," a catchphrase at the root of a viral anti-bullying campaign helmed by the Los Angeles-based teen, who is now being honored by TODAY as a Groundbreaker for International Day of the Girl.
It all traces back to March 2017, when Kheris by then had spent years as the target of relentless bullying by her elementary school peers for her dark skin tone. Fed up, Kheris turned to her older sister, Taylor Pollard, now 25, who crafted a tweet to boost her spirit.
"My sister is only 10, but already royalty," Pollard wrote alongside two fierce photos and the hashtag #FlexinInHerComplexion — an expression the sisters grew up hearing from their grandmother.
The tweet, which is no longer available online, quickly entered the viral cosmos, sparking a bigger idea in Kheris.
"A few days later, I was like, why don’t we make a clothing line called Flexin’ In My Complexion? I wanted to inspire everyone to love themselves," Kheris told TODAY Style. "So my mom gave us about $150 to go get a few shirts and get them made. We got, like, 10 shirts made, and (they) sold out in a minute."
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Just like that, the Flexin' In My Complexion apparel line was born out of their home garage. Day after day, order after order came in.
"So many people were reaching out to us just to say that they can relate to Kheris' story — literally people from all across the world," Pollard told TODAY. "People from India messaged her, even China. I didn’t even realize that other cultures deal with colorism, too."
Kheris still receives touching messages from followers today. She recalled a recent note from a young fan who also endured bullying and said Kheris' story really lifted her up. "For me to inspire her like that and say I changed her life, it’s just, like, wow," Kheris said. "I could change the future."
Riding on the success of the T-shirts, the sisters put their heads together — Pollard is the "artist" yin to Kheris' "ideas" yang — to design one-of-a-kind pieces all on their own. In September 2017, Kheris became the youngest designer to showcase a collection at New York Fashion Week.
"I was just shocked. I was overwhelmed," Kheris said of the experience. "I was amazed by what was going on and how far I’ve gotten in only a few months."
Soon, some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o and screenwriter-producer Lena Waithe, were seen sporting the sisters' T-shirts with those four words emblazoned on their fronts.
Kheris said seeing Nyong'o, one of her biggest role models, in a Flexin' In My Complexion shirt left her speechless.
"That’s something I would never dream of," she said. "She taught me to be confident and to never let what anybody says get into your head."
While Flexin' In My Complexion is a business born out of one young girl's experience in finding confidence, it's also a project forged by two sisters with a passion to create. Where Kheris provides the vision and the face of the brand, Pollard, who calls herself Kheris' "sister-ger," aka sister/manager, is the one making it all happen.
"I know what I want in my head, so it’s amazing because she actually can understand me," Kheris said. "I don’t know if anyone else can."
Today, Kheris has used her platform to continue doing good while also checking major accomplishments off her bucket list. In late 2017, she signed on to model in her first Nike campaign. In 2018, she teamed with SoulPancake for a web series empowering bullied kids. She's traveled to places far and wide, like Prague to accept a prize at the Global Social Awards. She appeared on "America's Next Top Model" and Steve Harvey's talk show. She launched a nonprofit, the Kheris Rogers Foundation, with a mission to give back. And that's all before the age of 14.
Kheris sees a bright future ahead.
"What I think I’ll be doing — well, what I know I’ll be doing — in the next 10 years is opening my own clothing store so I could get my message across the world, so everybody can hear me," she told TODAY.
At the end of it all, though, Kheris wants young girls to know Flexin' In My Complexion is more than a brand slogan. It's a movement. It's an attitude.
"Every morning you should look in the mirror say what you love about yourself," she said. "Every single day."