Keke Palmer on Being Inspired By the Younger Generation & If She'd Ever Run for Office (Exclusive)
By Liz Calvario
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Keke Palmer is unapologetically herself and that is precisely why the world has taken notice. If she's outspoken it's only because, as she tells ET, "I care so much."
At 27 years old, Palmer is a modern trailblazer who has shown innovation, resilience, and above all passion for creating change. For nearly two decades, the actress has been breaking barriers, representing Black women with a ferocity and elegance that is admirable. For its fifth annual Create & Cultivate 100 List, led by Founder + CEO Jaclyn Johnson, the actress was honored for making moves and redefining the future.
Palmer delivered an inspirational keynote address where she provided powerful advice and key insights that she has learned from her career experiences. Speaking on the importance of self-love and putting yourself first, she empowered attendees to continue to believe in themselves and build their confidence and value -- one thing that Palmer has exemplified in her daily life and shared with her followers on social media.
“I think when you’re doing stuff in the industry as a female and a person of color, you really just change it forward and not really think about all those obstacles because if you did you were kind of just be wiped out by all of that," Palmer tells ET about the "amazing" feeling of being recognized at the Create & Cultivate 100 List event, presented by Chevrolet, last week. "I think when people acknowledge you and you’re invited into a community and you guys are able to encourage each other, I think that’s the really important part."
Last year, she made headlines for her impromptu pleas to National Guardsmen during a Black Lives Matter protest. Her passionate speech sparked hope in young adults and people who were frustrated with the current climate.
"I was just really emotional. I've always been that way," she admits, adding that she was "really in pain. Deep, deep pain and feeling a sense of helplessness."
"When I talked to the National Guard it was really from a place of trying to connect to a human being," she relays. "Because this is the thing, the National Guard, they’re there to protect us but the unfortunate thing is what are they protecting us from? Our whole government is out to attack us. The thing is we’re trying to help one another and then our government is acting like we’re terrorists and then they have our own people out there."
"I was really just here to say, 'Hey, if you, as a patriot, American, you, as a human being, if you know why we’re out here fighting, you should stand with us because we should send a message to our government that we all as Americans, white, black, guardsmen, civilians, we are all standing together," she expresses. "That’s the thing, it’s gotten to a point where it was like the citizens against the government. That’s not how it should be. We’re all our same people. And that’s really what I just want. It was for us to be able to stand together because I want to reinstate my faith in our society."
Expressing her thoughts and making her voice heard is nothing new for Palmer, who consistently uses social media and her talents to raise awareness for social issues on and off the screen. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she teamed up with the Breathe With Me Revolution and Black Music Action Coalition to call for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to commit to a Truth Racial Healing and Transformational Commission in their first 100 days. At the top of her list is education and healthcare reform.
"Healthcare is a big thing for me," she notes. "More so in getting an even playing field when it comes to us as a country helping each other. I want to know that everything is going to the right place. I think there needs to be a resurgence of the government to know what we’re giving and what we’re putting in is actually going to go to the people that need it, and it’s actually going to go to the systems that are going to help remove some of the ignorance that we still have in our country."
"I want more truth in the history books so when it comes to systematic racism, that people are aware of what the propaganda is. That we’re used to making these decisions because a lot of people still believe those lies," she continues. "When I talked to President Biden myself, that was a big thing he was saying that he and his wife, First Lady [Dr. Biden], really wanted to do… Those are things that, in order for our country to be great, we all have to have access to. I think that’s really important."
On Inauguration Day, she also hosted the first ever Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans, a livestream created with political content for kids. With so much interest in politics and creating change, does she ever see herself running for office one day? It's something that has crossed her mind.
"I think politics are political. I think there’s a lot of things that go down," the former True Jackson, VP star says. "Here’s the thing, I care about people and I love being a person of service. My father is a pastor. He used to always go to the prisons, he used to always go to the old folks home and give his service and his words and his time. So that’s something that runs in my family. So I don’t know how a person like me would fit in the political world. I think I speak very candidly. I don’t know how much of that is possible. But hey, if Donald Trump can be president then I’m sure I could be too, hell. Anything is possible."
Inspired by her parents to stand up for what you believe in and be a helping hand, Palmer is also in awe of her generation and how outspoken they are.
"I feel like we’ve done so much in terms of breaking down the barriers that our ancestors, and specifically some of our parents, were held up against," she says. "The young millennials are really breaking the gap when it came to really being able to communicate with their parents…It’s really inspiring to me…So it’s just a beautiful thing. I’ve been very grateful to see a lot of stuff like that, so real life inspires me. Real people and real things happening, that’s very inspirational to me."
As for the pressure to be an advocate, a role model and the one younger generations come to for advice, she candidly replies, "There’s always pressure."
"But I think I embrace that pressure because it reminds me or lets me know how much I care and how much it means to me," she says about using her platform for change. "Obviously everyone feels the same way or needs to feel the same way, but I think for me, growing up the way that my parents raised me and understanding that art and representation where they meet it’s always something that I wanted to make sure was a part of what I did, whether it was on camera or producing or whatever it was. So yeah, I think it’s pressure but only because I care so much."