Insanely talented. Total boss. Just goals. Keke is probably going to take over the world.
By Chiara Mingione
Photos by Marley Rizzuti
Where do we start with Keke Palmer? The singer, actress, author, philanthropist (and so much more) defies the master of none sentiment. Since bursting onto the scene over a decade ago, the Chicago-native has kept herself busy in the limelight. By busy, we mean she literally doesn’t stop. From writing her book I Don’t Belong to You, to starting her own record label, Big Boss Entertainment, to becoming Broadway’s first African-American Cinderella, Keke is constantly switching gears between her crafts. Her passion for life and constantly creating more is abundantly clear—and it all seems to come naturally. We sat down with the star to talk her record label, mental health, and her music.
You’ve transitioned from a child star to a multi-talented actress, singer, and writer so smoothly. Can you talk about that transition?
It kind of happened organically. I started singing as a kid, but I started professionally doing music after I began acting. Throughout my career, I threw myself into different things that interested me. I’ve always been the kind of person to take on things seriously, and when things didn’t work out, I’d move to something else, and switch in between. They all developed on their own time. I have fans that know me more for my dancing or my acting or my social media, so it kind of just kept growing as I continued to grow.
Congrats on your new record label Big Boss Entertainment! What inspired you to create your own label?
What inspired me to create my own label were the things that I went through in the music industry. I felt that I wasn’t getting the proper nurturing that I needed, on top of seeing people in my generation trying to get into the industry. There was a space for all of us to create the music industry that we saw growing up. I wanted to create one that better fits what’s happening in the times now with streaming and such.
What are your goals for your label?
I want to create something that inspires my generation culturally—to create a movement that we all can be a part of and feel like we’re our own boss. I want to give us that empowerment and a source of independence, but also the mentorship and nurturing that we need to go forward.
We love “Bossy”. Can you tell us about the album you’re working on?
This album, The Boss, is all about that. It’s all about me becoming a boss. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and my first EP Lauren was more about the intimate side of me opposed to this project. This project is all about that bossy side—that side that’s like, look, I’ve been doing this and I’ve made sacrifices, but I’m here and I’m going to continue to evolve. It expresses that entertainer that people have grown to watch.
How has the music culture in Atlanta influenced you and your work?
The music culture in Atlanta has influenced me in so many ways, just from the sound they use, the kind of production, and the area. Atlanta has so many subcultures where it’s not just all about Hollywood or dance or music. It has so many different kinds of people to be influenced by and influences me. I find a quiet peace in Atlanta as well.
You’re incredibly hard-working and seem to always be working on something! What are your downtime rituals?
Just hang out with friends and my family—I spend lots of time with my niece and nephew because they bring me so much happiness. I also do some yoga and meditation. Sometimes it gets difficult with the schedule that I have, but I try my best to keep those things a part of my life since they help me maintain a clear mind with all the work I do.
You’ve spoken up a lot about mental health issues. When did you start focusing on your own mental health? Why do you think it’s important to continue the dialogue about it?
I started focusing on my mental health when I was about 18 and really started to become aware of what it meant to ensure that you have a healthy mental state. It’s important to talk about. It’s major because we all have ups and downs. We all get sick physically, so of course, we can also get sick mentally. The more that we normalize that conversation, it becomes easier for people to deal with what’s going on with them. It’s like if you had the flu and everybody thought you had a crazy disease. But once it was diagnosed, you have a better way of knowing how you can treat it. That’s what I think needs to happen with mental health. People should be able to know about it easily so that if you have anxiety, you just need rest or yoga, or you just need to go to church! Whatever works best for you.
You’ve worked with the Saving Our Daughters organization closely since you were 11 years old—and you even had them come out to your Broadway show, Cinderella! Can you talk about your work with them?
I worked with Saving Our Daughters for a long a time. Aside from what the organization stands for, Kurtis Benjamin has become a really close friend of our family. We just support him and what’s he’s doing in memory of his daughter—and what that memory and love have inspired him to do for other young girls. I love the way he runs the organization. We did Saving Our Cinderellas where we were coming up with all of these cool ideas. He’s an easy person to work with and his heart is in a good place, of course. Those are the kind of people I want to work with. When we did Saving Our Cinderellas, we partnered with the Covenant House in New York, and that’s when we had the opportunity to fly at least 20 girls to see their first Broadway show.
You seem to have your hands in literally everything. What’s the most fun thing you’ve worked on recently?
MTV Scream—the cast was awesome, It was a great production, and MTV was great to work with.
So we heard you’re into Lil Dicky’s work. Potential collab…?
I love Lil Dicky. I could definitely see a collab in the future. He’s really dope and I think his visuals are amazing. I love his concepts—they’re larger than life and he’s extremely talented. I’d definitely love to make that happen.
Who are your inspirations?
Queen Latifah, Will Smith, Oprah—just to name a few.
What’s next for you?
Berlin Station Season 3 and a movie I’m working on called Black Belle—it’s a western that takes place in the 1800s. The album has already wrapped up so I’m getting ready to drop these new singles to accompany them. And of course, MTV Scream is coming out.