Who Is Keke Palmer?
Keke Palmer began performing at an early age. She earned her first taste of national exposure in Barbershop 2: Back in Business, and went on to star in the acclaimed Akeelah and the Bee and the Nickelodeon comedy True Jackson, VP for three seasons. Successfully transitioning to more mature fare, Palmer enjoyed regular roles on the series Masters of Sex, Scream Queens and Berlin Station, before playing a stripper in Hustlers and landing a daytime talk gig with Strahan, Sara and Keke.
Palmer was born Lauren Keyana Palmer on August 26, 1993, in Harvey, Illinois. Palmer began performing at the age of 5, wowing audiences at her church in her hometown of Robbins, Illinois.
Performing is certainly in Palmer's genetic makeup: Her parents, Sharon and Larry Palmer, who met in drama class, had both worked as professional actors before settling into more regular full-time jobs. Larry went on to have a career at a plastics manufacturing company; Sharon worked with middle school age autism students.
The jump from church stage to the big screen happened quickly for Palmer. She earned valuable experience and exposure performing at a stage show at a popular Chicago tourist destination.
From there, Palmer was cast for a small role in Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004), in which her aunt was played by Queen Latifah. Palmer's role in the film encouraged her parents to relocate the family to California, so Keke could pursue a career in show business.
"I knew opportunities would pop up if I just kept on trying," said Palmer, who unsuccessfully auditioned for a Broadway show at age 10. "I talked it over with my sister, and I didn't have anything to bribe her. I asked her, 'Please?' I knew she was excited about going to high school and I didn't want to take that away from her—but I really wanted my dream to come true. She said, 'You're really talented, and I think this could be good for you.'"
Films and TV Shows
'The Wool Cap'
It wasn't long before bigger acting opportunities came Palmer's way. Her early credits include a string of appearances on several television shows, including ER, Cold Case and Law & Order. In 2004, Palmer starred opposite William H. Macy in the made-for-TV movie The Wool Cap, a performance that earned her the distinction of being youngest nominee for the Screen Actors Guild's best leading actress honor.
'Madea's Family Reunion,' 'Akeelah and the Bee'
Other work soon followed, including Madea's Family Reunion (2006) and Akeelah and the Bee (2006), which tells the story of a young girl and her pursuit of the National Spelling Bee championship. The film, starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, garnered Palmer significant critical praise. The soundtrack also featured Palmer's first recording, "All My Girlz," prompting Atlantic Records to bring Palmer into the studio for more recording time.
'The Cleaner,' 'The Longshots'
Maintaining a full-time acting schedule, Palmer began contributing voice work to Nickelodeon's Winx Club and co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes in 2007's The Cleaner. A year later, she starred opposite Ice Cube in The Longshots as Jasmine Plummer, the first girl to quarterback an all-boys football team in the Pop Warner nationals.
'True Jackson, VP'
In 2008, Palmer was cast as the lead of True Jackson, VP, a Nickelodeon program about a 15-year-old girl who becomes vice president of a billion-dollar fashion company. Palmer also co-wrote and sang the program's theme song. True Jackson, VP aired for three seasons, before signing off in August 2011.
'Shrink,' 'Joyful Noise,' 'Ice Age: Continental Drift'
Following a prominent role in the 2009 comedy-drama Shrink, Palmer joined Latifah and other big-name performers like Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson in the 2012 musical Joyful Noise, before voicing the character of Peaches later that year in the animated Ice Age: Continental Drift.
'Imperial Dreams,' 'Just Keke,' 'Masters of Sex'
By 2014, Palmer was moving on to more adult roles in films like the drama Imperial Dreams and the horror thriller Animal. Additionally, after appearances in TV programs like Degrassi: The Next Generation and 90210, the actress briefly hosted her own talk show, Just Keke, that summer, during which time she also enjoyed a recurring role in season 2 of Masters of Sex.
'Scream Queens,' 'Grease Live!'
In 2015, Palmer enjoyed a leading role in Ryan Murphy's Scream Queens, about a sorority being terrorized by a serial killer, and starred in the big screen drama Brotherly Love. She went on to earn praise for her performance as Marty Maraschino in Grease Live! in early 2016, before reprising her role of Peaches in Ice Age: Collision Course later that year.
'Berlin Station,' 'Star,' 'Hustlers'
In 2017, Palmer found her way into recurring roles in the cloak-and-dagger thriller Berlin Station and the musical drama Star. She then starred as the title character of 2018's Pimp, before portraying another streetwise character in the commercial and critical hit Hustlers (2019), alongside Jennifer Lopez.
'Scream,' 'Strahan, Sara and Keke'
Along with joining the main cast of the anthology slasher series Scream in summer 2019, Palmer began appearing on the Good Morning America spinoff Strahan and Sara as a maternity-leave replacement for Sara Haines, alongside fellow co-host Michael Strahan. In late August, it was announced that Palmer was joining the show on a permanent basis, prompting its name change to Strahan, Sara and Keke. The following spring, Palmer began hosting a revival of the old MTV dating show Singled Out on Quibi.
Music and Book
Palmer's first album, So Cool, a collection of R&B tracks, was released in 2007. She followed with the mixtapes Awaken (2011) and Keke Palmer (2012). In 2016, the artist unveiled her second album, Waited to Exhale, written during her True Jackson, VP years. Another mixtape, Keyana Nikole, recorded with Jane Handcock, dropped in 2017.
The singer-actress also became an author with the publication of I Don't Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice in 2017.
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