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What Happened to Keke Palmer? From Popular Child Actress to...

by Venus Sanders

I am prepared to take all the heat for this article because I wanted better for Keke.

Keke Palmer - Photography: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

So, let’s dive in…Keke Palmer is now a mother having recently given birth to her son, Leodis Andrellton Jackson with partner Darius Jackson. Twenty-nine years old, the actress, singer, and host was elated to share her good news, and what good news it is! A baby is always a blessing. But, what now?

During a conversation with a friend of mine in the industry, we couldn’t help but wonder, “What’s happened to Keke Palmer?” We were trying to figure out the African American actresses now on the come-up—you know, the ones who will take the place of the legendary aunties: Angela Bassett, Jennifer Lewis, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Halle Berry, Viola Davis. Not that their careers are over, far from it—(I mean, did you see Halle Berry in John Wick 3 or Viola Davis in The Woman King? Magnificent)—but you know, who is next in line? Of course, Keke was my first option, because I’ve always seen a bit of Angela in her, but perhaps I spoke too soon having taken note of her most recent projects.

*Deep Sigh* Lauren Keyana Palmer, Keke as we all know her was both August 26, 1993 known for her roles in True Jackson, VP, Winx Club, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, and more. Keke Palmer has always had a vibrant personality both on and off the screen but captured our hearts in her earlier roles, Akeelah and the Bee, House of Payne, Cleaner, The Longshots, Degrassi to name a few.

Of course, we thought this child actress was off to a wonderful start and would be sweeping award shows in her later years. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Keke is now just basic. I hate to say it but compared to other girls in the field—given her massive headstart—she’s no longer a contender in this race.

We wondered, well if not Keke, then who? Storm Reid came to mind and then, Zendaya. We’re not here to compare the women, but simply to state our amicable opinion. We want more representation in Hollywood for African American women, especially darker-skinned women. Another child actress turned adult we had high hopes for was Meagan Good. And although she’s slowly returning to our screens it feels almost hurtful that we missed out on what could have been her best years as a working actress. But it’s most definitely not too late and we would hope to see the same comeback for Keke Palmer.

Her most recent project, Nope was just a cinematic experience of her being herself. She was not playing a character; she was reciting lines with a camera in front of her face. The same Keke we experienced on SNL or in interviews is the same version of her we received as Emerald. The best thing that could have happened to that movie was Daniel Kaluuya.

Childhood Keke had range, we watched her excel in Akeelah and the Bee, and we watched her cry and beg her on-screen father Samuel L. Jackson to remember her dead mother in Cleaner. In those movies we got range, we got emotions, we got…an actress.

Now with Keke Palmer having entered motherhood, we’re not sure which direction her career is heading—is she going to take on fewer projects and continue to shove her TV personality down our throats and call it acting? Or will she go back into her bag of talent and give us something substantial?

I am a firm believer that if Keke Palmer had stayed on track with her career and continued to develop she could have very well given us representation in Marvel shows/movies as well. That would have been groundbreaking. Instead, we’re seeing newcomers take the roles I believe she could excel in if given the opportunity.

The character of Makkari in The Eternals, played by Lauren Ridloff or Monica Rambeau aka the second Captain Marvel played by Teyonah Parris. I mean no disrespect to the aforementioned actresses, but just speaking on how long Keke has had a “career” in Hollywood she would have been chosen for either of those positions. Of course, Keke is on a new path and as fans we’re happy for her, only speaking on what could have been.


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