OWN’s latest reality series, “Belle Collective,” seeks to redefine the term “Southern belle” by following a group of successful, entrepreneurial Black women who live, work, and play in Jackson, Mississippi. Goddess Lengths Virgin Hair owner Latrice Rogers is one of the belles stepping into the reality show ball in hopes of making a bigger name for herself, and more importantly her business.
The series, which premiered on Jan. 15, follows the professional and personal lives of five women in addition to Rogers: Dr. Antoinette Liles, Tambra Cherie, Lateshia Payton-Pearson, and Marie Hamilton Abston, as they set out to break ceilings — glass and otherwise — while shredding long-held stereotypes of the South.
“Belle Collective” cast member and Goddess Lengths CEO Latrice Rogers spoke with Atlanta Black Star about joining the cast, as well as how she came to build her multimillion-dollar hair empire.
According to Rogers, a Southern belle is defined as “a Southern woman, so classy, sophisticated, just all things Southern.” In case you need a clearer definition, the head boss lady in charge says look no further than her. “I’m the epitome of Southern belle, so if you see me, I’m the definition of a Southern belle.”
The energetic and outspoken businesswoman grew up in a “poor” small town called Canton, Mississippi, located about 30 minutes outside of Jackson, and graduated from Jackson State University with a bachelor of science degree in biology with the intentions of becoming a doctor, before being inspired to start her company, which she credits to God’s work in her life.
“I graduated from Jackson State with a degree in Science. I initially wanted to become a doctor, but God had other plans for me. Obviously, He said that this is not for you, so I found myself with a college degree, and I was working at Office Depot,” she explained. “I’m like, ‘this is not the life for me’…I honestly see people now, when I worked there 10, 15 years ago; they’re still there and they’re cashiers. I knew that I didn’t want that for me, so I was like, ‘no, this is not an option.’ ”
It was then that Rogers, who has been interested in hair care since childhood, decided to turn the hobby that brought her joy into a business that reportedly would go on to make over $1 million. “It started off as a hobby, just something to do, but you need a little money, but it actually grew into something so amazing because it just worked for me. This is what God had for me,” she said. “I’m not a typical doctor or the health-care professional, but within the beauty industry I love to make women look beautiful. So, I found my realm in another profession, and I love it.”
Goddess Lengths didn’t blossom overnight, however. The hair extension company and beauty bar began the same way many others do, as a dream and a side gig. “I got started working out of the trunk of my car, providing extensions and beauty services as a side business at first,” Rogers told the Jackson Free Press in 2017. “I would set up in the parking lot at places like Target, and, pretty soon, I started getting long lines of people at my car waiting for services. My husband, Clifton Rogers, recommended opening up a storefront, and I initially rented a space out on McWillie Drive for about $200. From there, it just grew and grew until I was able to buy my current location.”
Rogers’ hard work and dedication didn’t go unrecognized, and earned her the 2017 SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which she said was the moment she first realized her business was a success. “I was like, ‘oh, my God.’ It was like an awakening.”
Another crowning moment in her life came at the opening of her first hair extension vending machine five-and-a-half years ago in Northpark Mall near Jackson. “I had the opening for my vending machine and it was hundreds of people in line. It’s like, “They are here for my product” … It was just seeing all of those lines and people being so supportive. I couldn’t ask for better support from the city and just people in general.”
Rogers plans on expanding her vending machine offering to more malls in the future, but is currently focused on installing them in HBCUs. Machines are currently located at Tennessee State University, Alcorn State University, and there are plans soon, she said, for one at her alma mater, Jackson State University.
Always keeping her entrepreneurial hat on, Latrice, a self-confessed “super private person,” was enticed to join the cast of “Belle Collective” by the thought of how it could help take Goddess Lengths to the next level. “I’m actually a super private person. People that know me, they know that it’s hard to get into my life and to get into my circle,” she said. “People would know my brand and they wouldn’t even know my face. It’s just how private I work, but I had to look at the bigger picture. This is a platform and I want my business to continue to grow, so anything that will put my business in the forefront, I’m all for it, and even now I think we’re two episodes in, and my sales are quadrupled. It works. So, I feel like I made the right decision.”
Rogers also feels the series is “a completely different reality show” than others that are currently targeted toward Black women because “what you see is what you get.”
“I just feel like the rawness of it, the rawness, the vulnerability, it’s just so many moments that are related to so many different women and it’s actually real, raw, uncut,” she explained. “Nothing about it is fabricated. Not saying that the other reality shows are, but I know me, personally, it just wasn’t that way for me. Everything is what you see. What you see is what you get.”
She continued, “I feel like every woman has a story that somebody can relate to, learn from, and they may be going through something and the story may help them out.”
As she continues to innovate and enjoy the fruits of her labor, Rogers makes sure to take the time to reflect on her accomplishments and hopes that the legacy she’s creating shows other young Black girls from similar backgrounds that success isn’t outside of their reach. “My business does millions and I never thought in a million years that I would be at this point in my life, but I am. Like, with your hard work, and staying focused, and sacrificing, anything’s possible,” she confidently stated. “I just want to be the person that a little girl can look up to and be like, ‘Hey, I come from the same background as her, but I don’t have to fall victim to what I see or my environment, like I could actually be her.’ ”
New episodes of “Belle Collective” air Fridays at 10 EST on OWN.