Keke Palmer

Keke Palmer at the virtual Young Professionals event on March 8, 2021

The Office of Multicultural Student Life hosted a virtual Young Professionals lecture on March 8 with Keke Palmer as keynote speaker.

Palmer is best known for her roles in “Akeelah and the Bee,” “Jump In,” “True Jackson VP” and “Hustlers.” She is also a successful recording artist and philanthropist.

Palmer discussed a variety of topics, from getting into the entertainment industry to upcoming projects. She has a movie that is expected to come out by the end of this year called “Alice,” about a woman who works on a plantation and escapes, only to find herself in the 1970s. It gives more conceptualization of freedom, as this film is from the perspective of someone who was a slave, rather than other films that are focused on those whose ancestors were slaves.

She stressed the importance of showing both the Black struggle as well as Black pride, which this film does. Her other project is an album that should be coming out this year. This album is all about self-love and acceptance of one’s self. 

Kayla McCracken, the chair for the Black Cultural Programming Committee, said that they brought Palmer in because of the connection students could feel with her.

“She's successful and undeniably talented. Beyond that, she is someone we believe a lot of students can connect to; she's been acting since she was just a small child … we've been able to witness her grow into a phenomenal young lady,” McCracken said.

“By the time most kid actors reach adulthood, they disappear off ‘the scene.’ Not only has she remained present, she's been active; she speaks on real issues that most celebrities shy away from. She's a true role model, and she's funny, too, so that's a plus.”

Palmer talked about the importance of scheduling and finding balance, which is something she struggled with in the past. As a child, she was constantly working, which led to her missing out on a lot of things that other kids her age were doing, such as going to birthday parties and skating rinks.

“I don’t think I was very good at that [balancing] when I was younger. It was very much like it’s the entertainment world, I love singing, dancing, acting … I’m just going to do it all full throttle … then there’s another part of that where it becomes a responsibility because when you start making money and getting deals and jobs, and that is what they are: a job,” Palmer said.

She did go on to add that she is thankful for the sacrifices she made as a child because without them, she would not be where she is today.

Palmer also spoke about how some of her roles came to be. When she starred alongside Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in “Joyful Noise,” the director had asked Latifah who she saw playing her daughter in the film and she told them Palmer because she knew her work ethic. This was also when Palmer was fresh out of “True Jackson VP” and had a hard time staying fully invested in the industry.

“I was trying to get back into movies, reestablishing myself as a full well-rounded entertainer. ‘Joyful Noise’ was a big catalyst for that, for me having a job and me staying invested in the industry. So, for her to do that … that’s the kind of love and support that we need in order to help the young people to stay invested. She really showed me who I want to be,” Palmer said.

As far as other roles go, Palmer’s parents had chosen the roles she took carefully. They wanted her roles to be those that were inspiring to others and that gave a voice to other Black kids.

To finish off the lecture, Palmer gave some advice for those who are wanting to get into the entertainment industry as well. She started off by saying that knowing who you are is the most important aspect.

“During the process, know who you are. Know what you want to say,” Palmer said.

A question she used to ask was, “How can I be of service?” This shows what you want to say and what matters most to you. 

Palmer also went on to mention that not every role is meant for every person. She said that if you get it, it is meant for you, and if not, it wasn’t. It does not mean that one is a bad actor or actress. It simply means that the role wasn’t right for the individual or their voice.

The Office of Multicultural Student Life has a few more events this month, including a talk with Loretta Devine for their Annual Legends Lecture on March 18 as well as a socially distanced “Heart and Soul Paint Night” on March 29.

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