Is there anything Keke Palmer can’t do? The Illinois native, born Lauren Keyana Palmer in 1993, already has a laundry list of accomplishments under her belt from the first few decades of her life. She’s a multi-hyphenate talent who is beloved for her outspoken, no-holds-barred personality, and is a role model for many young folks as a champion for the Black and LGBTQ+ communities. After years of shining in smaller projects, Palmer landed the leading role in Jordan Peale's 2022 blockbuster Nope — and it doesn’t seem like she’s slowing down anytime soon.
Palmer was raised by two former professional actors, and as a result, she caught the acting bug early: At the age of 11, she landed her first role, as Queen Latifah’s young niece in Barbershop 2: Back in Business. After a string of parts in both TV and movies, her breakout role came in 2006, when she starred as the titular Akeelah in Akeelah and the Bee, a film about a young girl from a poor neighborhood who competes in the National Scripps Spelling Bee. Since then, she’s been a near-constant presence on the big and small screens, appearing in Nickelodeon’s True Jackson, VP (she played True); the TLC biopic CrazySexyCool (as Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas); Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens (as Zayday Williams); and Jordan Peele’s Nope (as Emerald Haywood).
While her Hollywood star was taking off, Palmer also showed her talent in music, signing with Atlantic Records in 2005. She released her debut album, So Uncool, two years later, followed by a self-titled mixtape in 2012 and another album, Lauren, in 2016. By 2018, Palmer had made another major move: She launched her own independent record label, Big Boss Entertainment. She was 24 at the time. And as if tackling both the movie and music industries weren’t enough, she also starred as the first Black Cinderella on Broadway in 2014; penned a memoir, I Don’t Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice; and has hosted game shows, daytime talk shows, and the MTV Video Music Awards.
Beyond being an extremely hardworking, prolific actor, singer, and host, Palmer is known and loved for her advocacy. She’s a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, has spoken out about her own sexual fluidity, and is a representative for the Saving Our Daughters project, an anti-bullying campaign. Time will tell what the rising star will do next — her only limit is the 24 hours she has in a day, and the multi-hyphenate is definitely making the most of every single one.
We don’t all need to look the same. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you decide what’s beautiful in the world. Not the other way around.
— via Instagram
I waited my entire life for a moment like that. I hate saying it was a huge deal that I was the first African American to ever be a part of this musical. It’s great, but I also want people to feel like it’s crazy, because it shouldn’t always be this way.
— to "Essence," about being the first Black woman to play Cinderella
I think the point of the whole video was to let people know that — that my sexuality is up to me. That’s really the point — it’s female autonomy and her being who she wants to be in the world; there’s no labels attached, she’s just doing her!
— to "Cosmopolitan," on her music video for “I Don’t Belong to You”
It’s challenging sometimes getting out of a negative situation because even though it might be negative it’s predictable. Predictability sometimes feels safer, but the beauty of living through your passion is every turn is unknown. You’re writing your own story as you go!
— via Instagram
You have to understand that when things go wrong in your life it doesn’t mean you need to quit. It means you need to get stronger and change your plan. You have to fight for your dreams.
— to "Ebony"
It’s very fun to be single, because you know what happens? You find yourself. You understand what it means to love yourself, instead of putting all this energy into give and tug in a relationship.
— to Power 105.1’s "The Breakfast Club"
For me, style is all about self-expression. I’m in a place in my life where I realized I don’t have anything stopping me from expressing myself in any facet, and that makes me happy.
— to Refinery29, on her decision to buzz her hair and dye it purple
We’re all weirdos, and people want to work so hard to fit into society, but it’s like no matter what you do, you’re never going to be what society depicts as what’s perfect because that’s not real. The only point that you have to make is that “I’m being me.”
— to "Cosmopolitan"
There’s nothing to EVER be ashamed of. Shame is the biggest trick your ego can play on you to set limitations on your life experience. You were born to MAKE MANIFEST! Anything you have experienced or gone through has only been to prepare you. Do not believe in the delusion of FEAR, it is a CHOICE.
— via Instagram
A great example of colorism is to believe I can be compared to anyone. I'm the youngest talk show host ever. The first Black woman to star in her own show on Nickelodeon, & the youngest & first Black Cinderella on broadway. I'm an incomparable talent. Baby, THIS, is Keke Palmer.
— via Twitter, after having her career compared to Zendaya’s
Photo credit: UPI/ Alamy Stock Photo