Keke Palmer Is Using Her Megaphone to Amplify New Voices

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Keke Palmer Is Amplifying New VociesDJENEBA ADUAYOM/AUGUST
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While filming the Jordan Peele horror film Nope, Keke Palmer had an epiphany. “I started to feel like I had so much to offer that I no longer wanted to hold it in,” she explains. Since starting work at age nine, Palmer has established herself as an actress, television host, producer, and singer; now, the Emmy Award winner wants to turn her focus outward. “I don’t love the concept of being ‘the only one,’” she says. “I was trying to figure out how to channel everything that I’ve learned in creating the Keke Palmer brand into something that could reach far beyond me.” The result is KeyTV, a digital network “for a new generation of creators.”

Palmer’s ultimate goal is to be able to democratize the entertainment industry while highlighting new and underrepresented voices. “Knowing what I know about how the industry works, I felt like I could be of service to other people. I want to educate and allow people to see themselves, not just in front of the camera, but also in all of the different [behind-the-scenes] roles that go into creating a movie or a TV show. We could use a lot more young millennials, Gen Zers, and people of color, especially when we talk about ownership and changing the kind of content that we see,” she says. “It starts from being in those kinds of positions.”

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Keke speaking onstage during KeyTV’s Launch Party Celebration on Oct. 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.Momodu Mansaray - Getty Images

Though creating her own network has been challenging, Palmer feels both prepared and passionate about this new endeavor. “I don’t know all the answers,” she says. “It’s going to be a bumpy road and I’m always going to be figuring things out, but for me, it’s worth it.”

On the career moments that amaze her

“I think most of my career I look back and I’m like, ‘Damn, I can’t believe that I did that.’ Nope, my experience with Cinderella on Broadway, [hosting] SNL, and hosting the VMAs were like, ‘Wow.’ I’ve had a lot of really fun moments. And it also feels crazy because I’m still the same person. For a lot of those experiences, I thought that they were going to [turn me into] a totally different individual. Like when you’re a little girl and you can’t wait to have kids and your own family, and then when you get there, you’re like, ‘Damn, I’m still me.’ I’m now meeting myself at this stage and my heart and spirit are still intact. That makes me happy.”

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Keke Palmer debuts in Cinderella on Broadway at Broadway Theatre on Sept. 9, 2014 in New York City.Jenny Anderson - Getty Images

On how motherhood will impact her career

“There are different ways in which I exist. I exist as a traditional entertainer, where it’s movies. I exist as a host, which involves more of a personal flair to it and invites a little bit more of my personal life into it. When there’s also the influencer aspect where you get a little more of a glimpse at my life. I don’t know how my baby will fit into that, or if that’s something that I’ll even want. I don’t know if motherhood will be part of that narrative or not. Only time will tell, but I’m definitely interested to see. I’m also the type of person that wants to share whatever changes and impacts me. I might be like, ‘I have something to say so here’s a book.’ I don’t know. Or motherhood might be off limits, Beyoncé style. I don’t think I’ll know until I know.”

On how her definition of success has changed

“As a kid, I thought success was being on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon or being in a movie with someone that I was a fan of. But as I’ve gotten older, success is just doing the thing you love. With the job that I do, it’s unfortunately not like being a doctor or a lawyer where you can go to school and learn how to do the thing. It’s not a system that you always have a blueprint for. With entertainment, you may never get on a television show or you may be like Ellen Pompeo and be on Grey’s Anatomy for 20 damn years. The industry is weird in that way.”

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Keke during her SNL monologue on Dec. 3, 2022.NBC - Getty Images

On her advice for the upcoming generation

“Don’t take things personally. The true gift is to be able to see beyond that and to not let other people’s projections about you penetrate your spirit. Accept whatever you’re up against, but don’t allow it to hold you back. Judge your success off of where you came from, not where someone else is. Are you doing better than yesterday? Well, then that’s a celebration. So keep focused and pay attention to yourself. Only compete with yourself. Don’t let other people’s perceptions of you be your perception of yourself. Don’t let other people victimize you. It’s way easier said than done. It’s so easy to get down on yourself and say, ‘Oh, it’s because I’m Black or it’s because I’m a woman.” It’s so easy to ingest that, but those aren’t things that we can control. You have to find your way around whatever that uphill battle might be. Don’t allow that reality to be the only reality. The name of the game of survival is to be able reframe [things] in a way that allows you to move forward. Don’t put yourself in a reality that’s going to hurt your feelings. Call me a delusional queen, but I’m not going to let myself believe something that’s going to hurt me. I’m going to choose to believe something that’s going to empower me. That’s the best space that we can operate from.”

On being a Women of Impact

“I feel like I was born at the most magical time. Women are breaking barriers in an incredible way. I’m so proud to live in an era where I can exist amongst other incredible women. From politics to entertainment to health to wellness, women are doing some really impactful things. We just can’t be stopped.”

A version of this story appears in the April 2023 issue of ELLE.

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