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Keke Palmer on Success, Faith & Focus

Since her breakout role alongside veteran actor Laurence Fishburne, Keke Palmer has been on fire. With a television show, music albums, and more than enough movie creds under her belt, the 21-year-old is someone worth catching up with whenever she’s in town. Keke (who hails from Harvey, IL) stopped by JET’s offices recently to discuss her upcoming projects and the importance of doing things from the heart.

JET: Let’s talk about the film Brotherly Love produced by Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit. Tell me about the film and your character.

Keke Palmer: Well Brotherly Love is definitely a coming-of-age film. It takes place in West Philadelphia and centers around the Taylor family. I play Jackie. June (played by Cory Hardrict) is kinda like the patriarch in the family. He’s the one that does a little bit of dirt in the streets to make sure that my brother and I don’t have to. And then Sergio’s (played by Eric D. Hill) character is the one that we’re hoping is going to change our reality because of his hooping dreams. And then [my character] Jackie, is at a place where she’s ready to find out who she is outside of you know, being Sergio’s twin sister and June’s little sister and you know the girl that can sing. She wants to figure out who she is outside of that.

JET: Dope. Now, Keke we’ve practically watched you grow up on film.What have you learned over the last decade about the business?

Keke Palmer: That you can’t really focus on what your idea of success would be for anything that you do. You have to do it out of the feeling. Something that moves you. I was defintely taught that by working with William H. Macy, Angela Bassett, Dolly Parton. They’ve all said that same thing; that you never know what people are going to react to. You never know what people are gonna love or what’s gonna be a big hit or whatever you wanna call it. So you have to do it because you like it. Because you love it and leave the rest out there.

JET: Acting is a profession that seems like you have to love to do it. How do you stay resilient?

Keke Palmer: My mom taught me at a very young age not to take [rejection] personally because none of it’s personal. A lot of times everything has to do with the other person. As soon as you can understand and wrap your head around that, you won’t be so offended and cause yourself so much suffering because you realize that it just wasn’t meant for you. You just move on to something better.

JET: What’s your definition of success?

Keke Palmer: For me what success looks like is continuing to grow. I don’t want to stop growing. I don’t want stay stagnant because the truth is that we’re going to always grow and change. I don’t want to hold on to something that I feel like identifies who I am to the point where it doesn’t allow me to become who God wants me to be.

JET: Keke, you made history last year by becoming the youngest talk show host in TV history. What can we expect from this season of “Just Keke?”

Keke Palmer: Nothing I can say just yet (big smile). Things will be the same in the sense of stuff that my generation doesn’t get to talk about that is going on. Stuff with the internet. You know growing pains. College. School. Relationships. Growing up, sex, everything that we don’t get to talk about [because] we’re misunderstood will be on “Just Keke.”

JET: Speaking of relationships, how do you balance your personal life with the fame that comes with your career?

Keke Palmer: [By] just learning that I can have both. When you grow up as a child actor, a lot of times it’s hard to identify who you are outside of your brand. But the truth is that if you work at Bank of America, you don’t act like you do with your friends when you’re working at Bank of America. So you have to understand and establish in your mind as an entertainer that, “I can have a private life as well.” You know what I mean? I can have a part of my life that I share with the world and I can have something that I save for myself that’s only for the people that do know me and do understand me. It doesn’t mean that I’m not being true or authentic. It just means that I’m saving something for myself and my family that loves me and knows me.

Want more Keke? Check out her personal website, www.kekepalmer.com.