Keke Palmer Is More Than Just a Grown Up Disney Kid

The gag about Keke Palmer? She’s just as entertaining as a solo musician and an actress on shows like “Scream Queens” as she is on social media.

Keke is progressing seamlessly from child star to fully grown actress and singer, without the growing pains that can sometimes come with that transition.

We caught up with the former Disney star about everything from hashtag activism and cultural appropriation to what Miley’s like IRL. Keep reading for our exclusive interview and photos by Prince + Jacob.

What do you think the hardest part about being 23 is?

Not allowing other people’s perceptions of you to become the perception of yourself, like really being confident and strong in what you choose to believe. Also, knowing that everybody is just here believing what they want to believe, so the choice is yours on what you choose to believe in.

Growing up in the entertainment industry, was there anything that you didn’t get to be a part of as a kid that you felt like you missed out on?

I never had a real high school experience. My only idea of it is from watching TV shows, but I think I would’ve liked to have experienced that. I still had those types of dynamics, but maybe I wasn’t in the backdrop of a school, I was in the backdrop of a set.

You teach dance tutorials on YouTube! What sparked your interest in doing so?

It’s a part of my relationship with my fans. The story I’m selling isn’t like “you need to have my life,” it’s like, “everything I’m doing you can do.” I want to support my fans because it’s supposed to be a give and a take from both of us. I want people to know that it’s as easy as believing in yourself.

You’re appearing in the second season of “Scream Queens.” What’s been the best part about joining that cast?

I was a big fan of American Horror Story and I never realized that I would have the opportunity as an actor to possibly work with Ryan Murphy, and so for me to work with him was just such an amazing experience because it was everything I thought it would be. From the way that he allows you to be free and have your own freedom to really take your character into your own hands, and then at the same time how he supports you in that with the writing. It really allows you to expand and grow in a way that any artist would appreciate.

You’re working on your record right now, are you finished already or not yet?

I guess I could say 75%! I just had a session with Sean Garrett and it totally opened up a whole new type of vibe for the album that I’m really excited to explore. I feel like I’m almost there with it, but at the same time so many different things are happening and I’m becoming more expansive creatively.

What are some things you do to keep yourself grounded?

I meditate, I pray, and I definitely ask myself questions just to make sure that I’m always checking in with myself. Like, “how do you feel?” And you know, just loving myself.

What sign are you?

I’m a Virgo sun, Sagittarius moon, and a Cancer rising!

Oh wow! Can you relate?

I honestly do think that I am a very typical Virgo in that kind of surface sense, but when you get to know me you do see all of the other things that come from Sagittarius and the Cancer parts. I’m extremely sensitive and very much so connected to my foundation and my home. I’m also very Sagittarius because I’m frank.

Do you feel a responsibility to be a role model?

Outside of being a role model or trying to be a role model, it’s about being real to yourself. I’m trying to be true to me and if there’s anything I’d want people to follow after that’s what it would be. So for me, it’s like… I’m a creative person. I’m an artistic person. And this is what spoke to me, therefore I’m going to carry that out in the best way that I can.

Who are some people that you look up to and want to see win at the game of life?

I love to see Beyoncé win. I like to see Rihanna win. I like to see Drake win. I like to see Oprah win. I mean, I like to see many people win. I like to see everybody win. I love to see Michael B. Jordan win.

What are your three favorite verbs?

Love, give, and receive.

Your music video for “Enemiez” is very sexy. What are some tips that you would tell young girls about embracing their sexuality?

Thank you! I just feel like it’s so much easier to allow life to change you instead of you trying to fit yourself into your ideas of life. Life is a surprising thing to experience and it’s beautiful because it’s filled with mystery and magic… real magic that I’ve seen with my own eyes! I guess my biggest tip would be not to label yourself. When you label yourself unconsciously, because that’s what society does, you don’t realize how much you’re limiting yourself.

A lot of people get to explore that behind the scenes without anybody judging them. What’s the hardest part about dating in Hollywood for you?

I’m gonna be honest, I think Hollywood is a little bit more accepting of being open to different types of sexuality than a lot of other places. Growing up in California, I’ve experienced a lot more understanding of the things I speak about. It’s a place you can get lost in, but it’s also a place you can find yourself in depending on how you operate.

What do you think is the hardest part about dating you?

Well, I think very much so like a computer. I’m very emotional, but I’m also very logical. I’ve been working the way I have been since I was a kid, so I think about everything as a schedule. I think about most things in a time frame. I’m very analytical and I’m a perfectionist, so I think somebody dating me might say that would be hard to deal with.

Are you accepting of change?

I try to become accepting of change because a situation isn’t gonna stop just because you want it to. You have to change how you feel about it. It’s all about making yourself the most comfortable and learning how to become flexible in life. I realized that this way of going about life was much easier than trying to force everything to go according to my rules.

What’s something about you that you think people misunderstand, or like something that you wish when you meet new people they just already knew?

That I’m not perfect. It’s not like everyone walks around thinking that I’m perfect, but I think because I am articulating what I’m thinking and I’m feeling, people tend to assume that I just have it all figured out. And it’s honestly my acceptance of not having it all figured out that makes me who I am. I accept being confused. I accept being sad. I accept emotions and let them flow through me. I understand that it’s all a part of the journey and I am okay with that.

Does making decisions scare you?

It’s not like it scares me, but at the same time I gotta be sure. I think often I can be the kind of person who gives two or three chances before making whatever solid decision it is I’m trying to make. But I do make decisions when they need to be made.

How do you feel about white girls in braids?

To not be okay with it would be like saying black people shouldn’t get perms. This goes back to my same message about labels… having braids doesn’t make you black and having straight hair doesn’t make you white. We’re thinking too hard on things honestly. I’m not really caring about whether or not someone who is not black got braids in their hair.

So, Miley Cyrus twerking on stage is not gonna bother you?

Miley Cyrus has always been that, I’ve known her since she was a kid. That’s always what she’s been into. If she loves hip hop music and she loves hip hop culture, that’s what she loves. My sister is a black girl and she loves alternative music and people think she’s weird [laughing].

Why do you think people care so much about those things?

I think the feelings that people have when they have adverse reactions to people that aren’t black wearing braids comes from the feeling that when somebody black does it, it’s not shown the same attention and love. But you can’t concern yourself with that. Are we fighting for attention? I’m not. If you’re respectful of the culture and you know about it and you’re educated on it and you know what you’re doing then by all means. My black girlfriend does henna and people try to tell her she shouldn’t be wearing henna and doing henna because that’s not her culture. You can’t go around looking at the way other people are perceiving you — it’s not fair to you. Don’t be a victim.

As a woman of color with a platform, do you ever feel pressure to speak up about issues like #blacklivesmatter?

I don’t feel pressure to speak up on issues of my culture but I do hate the emphasis my generation (me included) puts on social media in terms of creating changes within our world. To me, the importance has got to start being less about how many posts we’ve put up on the issues and more about what we are doing in the REAL world to create future change.

Do you think it’s fair that someone like you is expected to be aware of these issues while white actresses kind of get to coast by without saying anything political?

I would hope that anyone would speak on the things that speak to them. I am not white so I’m not sure what cultural issues they may or may not have. I do have an affinity for community and have a deep care for the younger generation and like to create inspiring yet fun and inclusive projects to propel them forward positively. Having said that, an entertainer’s main job is to entertain and I don’t think it is fair to expect an entertainer to be an activist. It’s a great combo when you have it but that is not everyone’s passion, a la Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali.

When do you think it’s appropriate to speak up, and when would you rather observe the conversation?

It’s only important to speak up when you feel you have something to say.

A lot of celebrities have been tweeting lately that there are more important things to care about than gossip. It seems weird because a lot of the time, gossip is how so many celebrities stay relevant and stay in the news. What’s your take on this?

I think people have to respect that what’s important to them is not always important to others. It isn’t about forcing your beliefs down someone’s throat, yet being the example of the change you’re wishing to see. It is easy to get frustrated when the generation gets sidetracked (me included). But, it’s important to refrain from finger pointing because you never know a person’s condition with themselves, sometimes we are not in our best place for ourselves so how could we even be capable of giving something of great quality to another? Everyone is on their own journey and it is not fair when we direct someone else’s process with “should have” and “should be.”

Sami Miro Vintage jacket, pants & choker | Vintage Chanel bikini top

O-MIGHTY top and skirt | Sami Miro Vintage earrings and choker | Elodie K pinky ring

Buffalo David Bitton jeans | Elodie K choker, bracelet and pinky ring | Gianmarco Lorenzi at Gregory’s Fred Segal boots

Sami Miro Vintage dress | Vintage Chanel bathing suit | Maggie Jane Design choker | Ruthie Davis at Gregory’s Fred Segal shoes

Sami Miro Vintage jacket and top | Vintage Chanel necklace | Elodie K pinky ring

Sami Miro Vintage top, skirt and choker | Elodie K pinky ring | Old Gringo boots

Photography & Creative Direction by Jacob Dekat and Prince Chenoa

Styling: Sami Miro

Hair: Marcia Hamilton

Makeup: Daniel Chinchilla

Interview: Mallory Llewellyn

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