The name Chynna Rogers is synonymous with high cheekbones and mile-long legs to the crowds who frequent New York fashion shows.
To rap enthusiasts, it conjures up the brash sounds of an on-the-rise West Philly rapper. So, which is it? Model blazing along catwalks or emcee entertaining a raucous crowd? Ask the 20-year-old Rogers, and she would say both - and add a few more titles while she's at it.
These days, Rogers calls Brooklyn home, but there's no mistaking the Philly in her voice as she chats over the phone about her dual careers.
She sounds relaxed as she reflects on her hectic balancing act. "When I was 14," she says, "I got discovered by this director at Ford modeling in New York, when I was at Six Flags in line."
When she wasn't trekking up to New York, she hung out around Philly's Art Museum or took on South Street. The crazy schedule cut short her first stint in modeling, but she returned to fashion after graduating from Lankenau High School.
Now Rogers gets called for fashion gigs because of her music career. She walked last fall for VFiles and DKNY during New York Fashion Week. And she grabbed a coveted a spot in DKNY's summer print campaign, too.
"You have to be really good with rejection and people saying no," says Rogers. "I respect the evilness, though. I feel like everything is just a play on what life is or how people are." She says she quickly learned to handle sarcasm and cattiness during shoots. But modeling comes with perks. The artist laughs when describing what she enjoys most. "I'm a girl," she says. "I hate to say it, but having someone do my nails, hair, and makeup all at the same time and then I get to go home still looking like that . . . that's the best part."
The frills of high fashion give way to sweatpants, Air Maxes, black T-shirts, and a mic when Rogers takes the stage. The rapper draws energetic crowds everywhere from the SXSW Music Festival to the historic 100 Club in London. Her quick delivery flows in and out of aggressive beats. She's a female emcee who hates stereotypes and doesn't rap about sex, but who fits in with the rowdy boys of A$AP Mob, whom she calls close friends. Rogers clears up Internet rumors that she is a member of the clique, insisting that the guys always look out for her. She counts them among her mentors in the game.
Rogers doesn't hesitate to aim at her contemporaries on the bass-heavy "Glen Coco," which got a Twitter cosign from Chris Brown. Her tough exterior, she says, came from Philly's battle-rap scene. "The fact that everyone raps and the fact that everyone likes to crack jokes or make fun of each other, it's great character-building, if nothing else."
Her inner English nerd may gush over tricky syllables and puns, but her subject matter hits home. Fellow Philly native Kur, on his last mixtape, enlisted her for a poignant song called "Chynna's Thoughts." Rogers grabs the reins as she narrates a racially motivated police traffic stop. She calls the recent string of fatal police shootings involving African American victims "way too prevalent." While overseas, Rogers followed American news. "I got time to look into this stuff, individual cases," she says. "Every day, I felt more and more frustrated and more and more tired, and it wasn't even me who had to go through it."
Rogers says the rigors of fashion and music are helping her grow. "I feel like modeling and rapping are both extremes," says the renaissance woman. "Doing both, being able to work at both, and then meditating, clearing my mind, and really piecing things together for a few hours has really helped me."
Sometimes, one endeavor takes a backseat to the other, but being an independent model doesn't constrict her. Practicing Buddhism doesn't hurt, either. She concedes she is not "the perfect Buddhist" but enjoys it. "It keeps me a lot more centered and focused on how to be a good person," says Rogers, "as opposed to telling me what would make me a bad person."
The next few months are important as Rogers works on her debut album. While in London, she linked up with producer Hudson Mohawke for a few songs, including "Made in Chynna." Cloud Atrium is also slated to make an appearance. Rogers pauses when asked the title of the project. "It's a sentence: 'I've Made So Many Mistakes Since We Last Spoke,' " she says. Rogers gets animated when explaining her "journal" of an album. "Honestly, the title is the best way to explain what the project is going to sound like," she says, "to see literally what kind of mistakes and decisions I've made in mostly the past three years."
The young artist clearly has a vision. "I feel like both careers are vessels for the more simple things I want out of life," she says. "I just want to travel." Rogers also wants more individuality within modeling, including the acceptance of tattoos.
She continues, with no boundaries to her possibilities. "I really want to work on a plane and build roller coasters," she says. "If I wasn't stretching my right brain so much, I would totally be an engineer, to work on roller coasters and planes."