By Emmy Liederman and Rich Miller
Editor-in-Chief and Arts & Entertainment Editor
Growing up as a black female entertainer, Keke Palmer was determined to never be put in a box. Instead of being held back by racial stereotypes, she developed her own identity as a vivacious spirit, providing a comedic and uplifting outlet in a world full of negativity.
“If I have anything left in me, it’s some love to give,” she assured the audience. “Something that’s positive and can give you a break from any negativity you may be feeling.”
The actress, singer and television host filled Kendall Hall with laughs, nostalgia and infectious energy on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 8:30 p.m. The former Nickelodeon star led CUB’s Spring 2020 lecture, which was co-sponsored by the Black Student Union.
Palmer also sat down with The Signal for an exclusive interview before the event. Throughout the night, she touched on everything from her least favorite zodiac sign to black representation in the media.
“When it comes to representation, even if you have people of color in the movies, what about the people behind who are making the movies?” she said. “The grips, the sound engineers, the director, the writers.”
Although Keke has found success in many forms of media, whether it be singing, acting or talk show hosting, most know her for her breakout role as True Jackson in Nickelodeon’s True Jackson VP. The show centered around 16-year-old Jackson being unceremoniously named the vice president of ‘Mad Style,’ the show’s fictional fashion company.
“The moment I was in the groove of my career was when I started doing True Jackson VP,” she said. “My life changed quite a bit after that.”
The lecture was defined by a mix of heartwarming and lighthearted moments. Whether Palmer was discussing her faith or her unconventional skin care routine, all eyes were on Keke the entire night. At the end of the show, one audience member even stood up and asked for her hand in marriage.
“I’m already married, I just don’t wear a ring… to the lord!” she said, setting off applause and roars of laughter.
As someone who has lived such an unconventional life defined by uncertainty, Palmer offered advice to students on how to handle the unknown — no matter what career path they choose.
“You’re not gonna have all the answers,” she said. “There is no end result. There is a constant journey. You’re not gonna all of a sudden know it all. Instead of being afraid of that, embrace the fun of it.”
Palmer radiates unwavering confidence, which she says is a product of her family encouraging her to stay true to her own identity and ignore the negativity.
“My mom always raised me to just be 100% authentically myself and not allow ignorance to deter me, or change me or put hate into my heart.” she said. “I love playing characters, but my favorite character to play is Keke.”
Although Palmer’s parents were not granted the same opportunities that she was, they made sure their daughter was not underestimated the way they were. This support from her family is something that she is determined to never forget.
“I don’t come from a lot of money,” she said. “Making sure that I never forget where I came from and remembering to give back is very important. That’s how my parents raised me.”
Towards the end of the night, CUB invited the audience to live tweet their own questions. One student asked her for advice on how to handle the stress of being a busy college student.
“Spend time with your friends. Relax. Have fun. Let your hair down. Watch a movie. Watch reality TV. Let go of perfectionism and have fun,” she said.
When it comes to choosing a career path, Palmer emphasized that students should pursue something that they genuinely love without ever sacrificing their own self worth and dignity.
“In any position, a lot of times you feel like you can’t speak up,” she said. “If you’re somewhere where you’re not respected, then you shouldn’t be there.”
One of the most powerful moments of the night was when Keke assured the audience that a troublesome past cannot prevent a successful future.
“It doesn’t matter if your mother is a crackhead or your daddy’s a drug dealer,” she said. “You can be anything you want in this world. I swear.”