KEKE PALMER IS NOT BUYING IN
“Society is not always saying: do yoga, meditate, go to the park and read a book. Society’s yelling go buy so-and-so jacket, you need those new shoes, and if you don’t have this Lambhorgini well you might as well just fucking kill yourself!”
I’m sitting in the dining car of a train gliding north up the Pacific coast. A man with a beard down to his belt just walked by with a tray full of soda. I start talking to Keke Palmer—my ear pressed against the phone so tight I feel it beginning to redden. Palmer, 23 years old, Virgo, speaks to me in a voice that is strong and full of anticipation, willpower, and a strange touch of timorousness.
At one point the fourth highest-paid child actor in the world—making $20,000 an episode when she was 15 as the eponymous lead in Nickelodeon’s True Jackson, VP—Palmer is currently starring as Zayday Williams, a sorority member with a genius IQ, in Fox’s Scream Queens.
“I always had this dream where I was falling.” Palmer tells me, “You’re falling continuously. You don’t know where you’re falling from, but you’re just, like, falling. When I was a teenager, I used to always have these dreams of seeing teeth. I kept seeing these teeth. They were decaying, very gross, disgusting teeth, but when I was a little kid I had the falling one and when I was a teenager I’d have the teeth…”
We’re supposed to talk about Oh La La Land—some kind of fantasyland, half L.A., half Paris: a kind of landscape with rainbows and spiritual revelations abounding. I’ve asked Palmer about childhood dreams, and like anything unquantifiable, it takes the hard facts to bring it into focus.
Growing up on the Southside of Chicago—primarily in a town called Robbins—was tough. Robbins has a per capita income of around $13,000. “The hood,” as Palmer affectionately calls it, “was rich in community, though.”
Then there is I Don’t Belong To You—the title of her new memoir. “I’m always looking for something new to put myself into that’s going to help me expand,” she tells me, “for a while I was afraid of change, but then I realized that change was the catapult—it’s necessary for growing.”
It sounds as if someone is either doing her hair in the background, or serving her coffee, or she is leaving for the gym. I imagine she speaks to me with assistants in tow, unveiling deep feelings in front of everyone as if this is her job: being some type of wide-open canvas that is painted and stretched every day in public.
And god, how right Palmer is when she says, “Society is not always saying: do yoga, meditate, go to the park and read a book. Society’s yelling go buy so-and-so jacket, you need those new shoes, and if you don’t have this Lambhorgini well you might as well just fucking kill yourself! That’s what the world is telling you. And then when you do all those things you still find yourself unhappy and you’re like, oh shit I really need to off myself. No! You’re heading in the wrong direction.”
Well, I’m on a train. Heading where I’m heading. Ending a call with Keke Palmer, a surprisingly gracious, intelligent, and soulful woman, one you want to lend an ear to.
Film Directed by Ian Morrison and Samuel J. Roberts
Director of photography for the film: Samuel J. Roberts
Photographers: Sarah Barlow and Stephen Schofield for Weiss Artists Agency.
Stylist: Sara Paulsen for Celestine Agency.
Hair: Bertrand W. for Opus Beauty using Oribe Hair Care.
Makeup: Jen Fiamengo for Walter Schupfer using Make Up For Ever.
Styling Assistant: Annie Pennington.
Written by: Augustus Britton