Lauren Keyana "Keke" Palmer (born August 26, 1993) is an American actress, singer, rapper, songwriter, and television personality. Palmer was born in Harvey, Illinois, and raised in Robbins, Illinois. After Palmer's film debut, Palmer and her family moved to California to help her pursue a career in acting. Palmer released her debut album, So Uncool, on September 18, 2007, through Atlantic Records. The album failed to chart on the US Billboard 200 but did chart at number 85 on the R&B chart. The album was preceded by the second single "Keep It Movin'".
Apart from her work in music, Palmer is also a recognized actress. She made her acting debut in the 2004 film Barbershop 2: Back in Business and rose to prominence in 2006 for her breakthrough role in Akeelah and the Bee as well as starring in Madea's Family Reunion. Palmer has also starred in films such as The Longshots (2008), Shrink (2009) and Animal (2014). In 2012, Palmer starred in four films: Joyful Noise, Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and Virgin Mary. Besides films, Palmer has also starred in the television films Knights of the South Bronx (2005), Jump In! (2007), and Rags (2012), among others. Palmer has also had numerous television roles including the lead role in Nickelodeon sitcom True Jackson, VP. Palmer earned $20,000 per episode of True Jackson, VP, which made her the fourth-highest-paid child star on television. Keke was also a series regular in the 2015 Fox horror comedy Scream Queens and the 2019 VH1 slasher Scream. In 2019, Palmer became co-host of daytime talk show Strahan, Sara and Keke on ABC alongside Sara Haines and Michael Strahan.
Palmer was born on August 26, 1993, in Harvey, Illinois, and grew up in a Christian household. Her parents, Sharon and Larry Palmer, who met in drama school, had both worked as professional actors before settling into full-time jobs. Her father works for a polyurethane company, and her mother is a high school teacher who works with autistic children. Palmer first sang in a church but earned exposure performing at a stage show at a Chicago tourist destination.
In 2002, Palmer auditioned for a stage production of The Lion King at age nine. In 2004, she gained her first film role in Barbershop 2: Back in Business, in which she played the niece of American rapper and actress Queen Latifah. After starring in the film, Palmer and her family moved to California, so Palmer could pursue a career in acting. Palmer then pursued a career in singing. In 2003, she participated in American Juniors, the American Idol spin-off series, but her audition scenes were edited out and the show was canceled that year. In 2005, Palmer signed a record deal with Atlantic Records. Her debut single, "All My Girlz", is featured in the Akeelah and the Bee soundtrack. In 2005, Palmer was featured in the television film Knights of the South Bronx, as well as starring in three television programs Second Time Around and ER. In 2005 signed with Disney Channel to star in the show Keke & Jamal, but the pilot was unaired and Palmer left the channel.
On November 18, 2006, she performed at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, for VH1's Save the Music Battle of the High School Marching Bands competition, marking her first ever stadium performance in front of thousands of people. In addition, as part of her contract with Disney, Palmer sang the songs "It's My Turn Now" and "Jumpin'" featured in the Disney Channel Original Movie Jump In!, in which she stars as Mary, the love interest to Corbin Bleu's character. In 2006, Palmer was featured in the music video for the Ludacris and Mary J. Blige song "Runaway Love", in which she starred as a pregnant 11-year-old girl. That same year, she recorded a song entitled "Tonight" which was featured as the first song in the end credits of Night at the Museum. Besides focusing on her music career, Palmer had the lead role in the 2006 film Akeelah and the Bee, in which she played a bright 11-year-old who comes from a poor neighborhood and competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Palmer also had a supporting role in the 2006 film Madea's Family Reunion.
In 2007, Palmer starred in many acting roles, she was a supporting act in the thriller Cleaner alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes. Palmer also had the lead role in the television film Jump In! along with American actor Corbin Bleu. Palmer also starred in two television programs Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Just Jordan. Palmer released her debut album So Uncool on September 18, 2007, though Atlantic Records. The album failed to chart on the US Billboard 200, but did chart at number 85 on the R&B chart. The album was preceded by the second single "Keep It Movin'". In 2008, Palmer began her starring role as the title character in Nickelodeon sitcom True Jackson, VP. Palmer also wrote and performed the theme song for the series. Palmer earned $20,000 per episode of True Jackson VP, which made her the fourth-highest-paid child star on television. In July 2009, designer Jane Siskin created a Walmart fashion line inspired by True Jackson, VP, with all the designs being approved by Palmer. The fashion line consists of jumpers, modern dresses, knit tops, T-shirts, leggings, and more. As well as starring in True Jackson, VP, Palmer starred as the lead role in the 2008 film The Longshots, along with Ice Cube, becoming their second film together after Barbershop 2: Back in Business. In 2009, Palmer had a role in the film Shrink in which she played a patient named Jemma, who is a troubled high school student, and is required to see a therapist by her school after cutting her hand by punching a mirror.
In 2010, Palmer was signed by the Chairman of Interscope Records, Jimmy Iovine, and began working on an album. Between her MySpace and SayNow accounts, she has released several snippets of songs that were recorded for possible inclusion on her sophomore album. In a 2011 interview, Palmer stated the album is complete and is in the process of finalization. The self-titled album will be a mixture of R&B/hip-hop with pop undertones. Producers and writers for the album include Lil Eddie and Lucas Secon. In January 2011, Palmer released her first mixtape Awaken. The mixtape was officially released on January 10, 2011, for downloads on mixtape-downloading websites. The first and only single released from the mixtape was "The One You Call". A music video was also released for the song. It premiered on Palmer's official YouTube channel and iTunes. In 2011 she finished her show True Jackson, VP.
In 2012, Palmer starred alongside Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in the film Joyful Noise, released in January 2012. She produced and starred in Rags, a Nickelodeon musical film, as well as voice characters in Ice Age: Continental Drift and Winx Club. Palmer has also recently been cast in the upcoming comedy Virgin Mary, opposite Abigail Breslin and Carter Jenkins. In 2012, Palmer spoke on the direction of the album saying "It's definitely a progression. What you would think I'd sound like at my age is what it is. It's a record I can say is truly my own. I was there from the beginning to the end. I was in full control of it, and it represents who I am." In July 2012, Palmer released the single "You Got Me" featuring Kevin McCall. The video for the single was released on July 11, 2012. Palmer has also announced a new single named "Dance Alone". Palmer released a self-titled mixtape Keke Palmer on October 1, 2012. It includes her new singles "You Got Me" & "Dance Alone" which have already been released. Since the release, her mixtape has over 35,000 downloads.
In 2013 Palmer portrayed Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas in the TLC VH1-biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. The film was completed in April 2013 and aired in October on the VH1 network, as well as being released in select theaters soon after. On May 16, Palmer released a video showing her recording and performing a cover of Alicia Keys song "If I Ain't Got You". She recently took part in a cover of "The Other Side" with Max Schneider. The video was released on YouTube in late June 2013 and is on iTunes without Derulo's part. In 2013, she also portrayed Elizabeth Royce Harwood in four episodes of 90210. Palmer starred in the horror film Animal. Produced by Drew Barrymore, the film co-stars Elizabeth Gilles, Jeremy Sumpter, and Eve and is scheduled for a limited release on June 17, 2014, in theatres and VOD. In addition to being in the film, Palmer also performed and wrote a song entitled "Animal", which is the main theme of the movie of the same name. Palmer was cast in a recurring role in the second season of Showtime's Masters of Sex. She played Coral, a nanny hired by the Masters to care for their new baby. Palmer is currently working with record producer and recording artist Bangladesh on her second studio album.
It was announced on April 21, 2014, that Palmer was hosting her own daytime talk show on BET called Just Keke (formerly The Keke Palmer Project). The show covered a variety of topics including fashion, pop culture, relationships, social issues, celebrity interviews, and much more. The show premiered on June 30, 2014, and it runs on Monday-Friday at 5pm ET/PT. In August 2014, it was announced that Palmer would be the first African-American to star as Cinderella on Broadway in September 2014. She performed her first show on September 9, 2014. Her last show was on a closing night of the show's run on January 4, 2015. On August 21, 2015, Palmer announced her deal with Universal Music Group's Island Records. Her first single with the label, titled "I Don't Belong to You", was released on October 25, 2015. Between September 2015 and December 2016, she had one of the leading roles on the Fox horror series Scream Queens.
In 2015, it was announced that Palmer would join Grease: Live broadcast on Fox on January 31, 2016, as "Pink Lady" Marty Maraschino along with Vanessa Hudgens, Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit. Rolling Stone wrote "Keke Palmer as the 'mature' Marty Maraschino was a standout, taking the classic character and completely making her her own. As Maraschino, Palmer was the coolest girl in school and could've easily been the leader of the Pink Ladies with her assertiveness, confidence and biting sense of humor." She released the single "Enemiez" featuring Jeremih for her forthcoming album in March 4, 2016 on iTunes. The single is her second with Island Records. It was sent to US rhythmic radio on March 22, 2016.
In 2016, her memoir was released, titled I Don't Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice. On June 26, 2016, Palmer released a previously unreleased album she recorded when she was 16, now titled Waited to Exhale. The album was recorded during a dark period in her life when music executives didn't have much faith in her. On November 4, 2016, Palmer released her second extended play titled Lauren through Island Records. A 17-minute short film of the same name was released exclusively on Billboard's website. On April 21, 2017, Palmer released a new single "Wind Up" featuring Quavo of the group Migos. On September 13, 2017, it was announced that Palmer will join as a series regular in the third season of the VH1 slasher television series Scream. She will star in the role of Kym. The season premiered on July 8, 2019.
In September 2019, Palmer starred opposite Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu in Hustlers, directed by Lorene Scafaria. In 2019, as part of the #YouKnowMe campaign, she shared she had an abortion via twitter.
In April 2019, Palmer began guest co-hosting ABC's daytime talk show Strahan and Sara, sporadically filling in for co-host Michael Strahan and more regularly beginning in June during co-host Sara Haines' maternity leave. On August 26, 2019, it was announced that Palmer would join the show permamently, becoming its third co-host alongside Haines and Strahan, effectively renaming the show Strahan, Sara and Keke.
Palmer's first studio album So Uncool was heavily influenced by contemporary R&B, being described as "bright, bouncy, and melodic enough to appeal to teens and pre-teens. Fans of dancey teen pop will want to give this auspicious debut a listen" by cduniverse.com. Palmer was heavily influenced by American R&B singers Ciara, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Aaliyah, Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, and R. Kelly, as well as girl group TLC. Among her urban influences, Palmer also cites pop artists Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne as influences. Following the release of her single "I Don't Belong to You" on October 25, 2015, Palmer took to interviewers to explain the meaning behind her song. "I don't belong to anyone else but myself. I have to make my own decisions. Happiness is defined by me. My sexuality is defined by me. And that can change and this can change and I can make it what I want to make it because I'm the one who makes that choice. So that's what 'I Don't Belong to You' is saying. This song feels right. It feels right and it's telling who I am. And it captures my identity." Following the interview, she shared with the world via social media that she now identifies as no label.
Palmer works with the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of the American charity Cool To Be Smart program, speaking to children about the importance of learning. She is also a supporter of Urban Farming and the Girl Scouts. She has worked with such charities as the YWCA and with Saving Our Daughters. Curtis Benjamin, the CEO of Saving Our Daughters stated, "We are so excited about having such an extraordinary singer & actress as Keke Palmer, to address these issues of bullying & abuse worldwide with the YWCA USA and with both our missions." In 2009, she attended the Stars and Strikes benefit for A Place Called Home. As of late 2010, Palmer, along with many other widely known celebrities, has been an avid representative for the "Saving Our Daughters" oath project, an anti-bullying campaign that allows people all over the world to take an oath to stop bullying.