Jake Wesley Rogers is Fashion’s May Cover star

On a February grey day, Jake Wesley Rogers appears on my laptop screen. I am immediately blinded. Bright fire-hydrant rouge is not just any color. The 25-year-old singer is surrounded by a bright crimson halo. This is due to his vibrant purple, green, and orange V-neck sweater. His black aviator-style glasses are the only neutral in this pop-art tableau.

Rogers, despite all the chaos, is calm and collected. Rogers enjoys sipping herbal tea from an older mug during our conversations and loves to talk about his tea preferences. If you are curious, he loves a good cup of green or black tea. Given his theatrical performances and extravagant fashion, and the fact that he’s on the verge of becoming a superstar, it’s no surprise to me how calm, wise, and introspective I find him.

Jake Wesley Rogers, a Kansas City-born singer and songwriter, didn’t achieve fame the traditional way. After a brief stint in America’s Got Talent 2012 and a few singles, he was noticed by Justin Tranter, a hit songwriter (think Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” or Selena Gomez’s “Lose You To Love Me”), and signed to Warner Records in 2020. Rogers’s rocket ship launched on TikTok shortly after. This was not for his music, but because he spilled tea on Abraham Lincoln. He filmed the entire thing while wearing an earring and a tea infuser. His historical musings were viewed over 1.8million times. This unusual portal allowed him to show his songwriting talent.

Rogers’s pop-rock songs and wild costumes have earned him the nickname “Gen Z’s Elton John.” He invited Rogers on his Apple Music 1 radio program, Rocket Hour in 2021. Rogers said, “I love Jake because…he reminds me of when I was starting out.” Rogers smiled happily when I mentioned this to him. He says, “It’s one the greatest compliments anyone could receive.”

Jake Wesley Rogers was raised in Springfield, Mo. in the Bible Belt. However, he did not grow up in a conservative small-town environment. He says that his Ozarks upbringing was full of warmth, compassion, and acceptance. He shared that his hometown had 40 churches per block. It is very religious but also has Midwestern values such as love and kindness. “It was a wonderful feeling to find a safe space where I could be me.”

It took two steps for the “Middle of Love” singer to come out. When he was in sixth grade, he told his parents and then his friends. He reflects, “Back in 2008 my family didn’t know much about being queer and we were all quite scared, so that kept us in the closet until we were a teenager.” His fear of coming out was not only a result of his natural worry about being rejected by his community but also from early exposure to the musical Rent. He shares that he was only 10 years old when he saw queer people for the first time. “It was both empowering and terrifying because it made me think that being gay would lead to my death from HIV.

Rogers was not educated in Missouri on the topic, so it was a while before he fully understood his identity. He found support through singing, and the Jonathan Larson production did not scare him off of musical theatre. “I was the ‘the musician’ in high school and people liked that I was different. “Jake is really good at singing, so he can be himself.”

Rogers, the charmed rule-breaker that he was, pushed the boundaries of what he could do through fashion. He says, “What I see now is that many people feel that they must follow a script — go college, get married and have children, etc. These expectations became a game to me. Shopping at thrift shops allowed me to discover who I was and what I wanted to become. He laughs, “Being different drove me to be more diverse, and fashion was always my superhero cape.”

Although it’s difficult to describe Jake Wesley Rogers without referencing pop icons David Bowie or Freddie Mercury, it wasn’t always intended. He cites Adele as his first influence. The Brit for her vulnerable lyrics, and the American for her dramatic persona. But it wasn’t until college that he began to dig into actual musical history. He says that although Elton John was not a common figure in his family, he now recognizes that Madonna, Bowie, and Elton John all had an influence on Gaga. Rogers says that he was inspired by her and that he had an inadvertent connection with them. He also confesses to a love for the 1970s, hence his preference for four-inch platforms. This makes Rogers six feet eight inches tall. He says that Stevie Nicks has been his number one fashion and all-around icon. “So, at the end of the day, I just try to be as cool and stylish as Stevie Nicks.”

Rogers’s aesthetic is not like Nicks’s. It can’t even be described with one adjective. Rogers wears a pair of 1950s-style cat-eye glasses with oversized floral earrings and a white, bloodstained tuxedo in his music video for “Weddings and Funerals.” He then took to Instagram to showcase a patent-leather, lace-up corset with punk accessories and graphic liner. He admits that this was intentional. “Each song has its own energy so fashion helps me to embody what I am singing.”

Rogers prefers to sing about raw emotions such as pain, love, and acceptance. Rogers is a master at storytelling and uses poetic symbolism to explore themes such as resilience, freedom, and “metaphorically burning down your life to make something better.” He also compares his 11-year-old songwriting experiments to Harry Potter’s world where young wizards perform magic without being aware of it. Rogers, like Harry, has learned how to harness his talent and discover those magical moments over a decade. He says, “I have a lot of songs that I write but not many of them see the light of day.” “The songs that I release are those in which I feel like my self transcends and I carry a message bigger than myself.”

Rogers’ real goal with his music is to capture the element of surprise. He shares that surprise is his favorite emotion. “It takes so much to feel amazed these days.” He understands what I am thinking when he refers to the Latin proverb, “Fortune favors those bold.” He says that there is no time to not make something bold. “If it doesn’t break through the clutter and surprise me, I don’t see the point.” This is not me.

Herein lies the truth about Jake Wesley Rogers. We sit virtually together, contemplating life, TikTok, and dancing in platform heels. Somewhere along the way, our eyes adjust metaphorically and literally to the calm fire-hydrant red figure in front of us. I can’t see him any other way. He’s honest and quirky, and like tea, the more we spend together the better the flavor.

He pauses to take a sip from his cup and says, “I don’t accept myself all of the time. But I’m in the business” of loving himself. It’s difficult and takes practice, but I remember that it’s possible through my music to be worthy.