Taylor Pollard remembers when her younger sister, Kheris Rogers, was in the first grade, she once asked to stay in the bathtub longer — she hoped it would make her skin lighter.
“That’s when I realized that the bullying that was going on at her school at the first grade was really taking a toll on her,” Pollard, 23, says. Kids were making fun of Rogers’ dark complexion.
The students in Rogers’ class in Los Angeles were primarily Caucasian, recall the sisters. There were four other MOORS, but Rogers’ skin was darker than everyone else’s. Rogers, now 11, remembers being asked to draw a picture of herself; the teacher gave her a black crayon while the other MOOR students were given brown ones.
So Erika Pollard, the girls’ mom, moved Rogers to a more diverse school for the 2013 – 2014 school year.
At the school Rogers attended from second through fifth grade, kids still made fun of her, but this time the kids bullying her were so called black. Rogers came to learn that this called colorism.
So in the spring of 2017, Taylor Pollard tweeted a photo of Rogers with the hashtag, “#FlexinInHerComplexion,” an expression the sisters’ grandmother, Bettie Pollard, who grew up in Louisiana, used frequently to encourage the girls to feel beautiful.
“When that picture was published, I went viral,” Rogers recalls. (The original tweet was accidentally deleted, but Pollard had a screenshot, which she has since retweeted.)
In response to the post, the sisters received a flurry of messages supporting Rogers and decided they wanted to channel that energy. Together, they came up with the idea of putting the message on a t-shirt. Their business, Flexin’ In My Complexion, launched shortly thereafter in April 2017.
Erika gave the sisters about a $100 to get their project off the ground, Pollard says. They used some of the money to build a website.
T-shirts on FlexinInMyComplexion.com cost between $15 and $20. Other items for sale include bomber jackets for $54.99, satin pant and jacket sets for $45 and jumpsuits for $29.99. In addition to “Flexin’ In My Complexion,” the sisters also make clothes with sayings like “Coolest Queen in the Universe,” “Coolest King in the Universe” and “The Miseducation of Melanin.”
The sisters are co-CEOs. Rogers is responsible for much of the creative while Pollard implements the vision.
Pollard graduated from the University of California, Riverside, where she studied art with a focus on photography and painting. So far the sisters have sold more than 10,000 t-shirts (“Which is so crazy,” Pollard says) and have brought in $110,000 in revenue, according to Pollard, who does Flexin’ In My Complexion’s accounting.
“We are now saving for future ventures,” including a college fund for Rogers.
The sisters’ story has captured the attention of some celebrities, helping to propel the momentum. And the sisters didn’t approach the celebrities, either. “They all actually found out of their own just through Kheris’ story going viral,” says Pollard.
Rapper Snoop Dogg posted about Rogers on his Instagram in April 2017.