Keke Palmer on Pushing the Envelope on Black Representation and Leaving Behind a Legacy

Keke Palmer for Glamour Cover
Lea Winkler

The 'Nope' star graces the cover of 'Glamour' and breaks down the challenges that come with stardom.

Keke Palmer has been making her mark on Hollywood for quite a while now, and she's not going anywhere anytime soon. In an interview with Glamour for their August issue, the 28-year-old looked back on her 20-year-career as she gears up for a new era -- one kicked off by her most high-profile role yet, the lead in Jordan Peele's new sci-fi horror flick, Nope.

"It means everything," Palmer says of working with the Oscar-winning director. "What I love about Jordan Peele is that he normalizes Black people in leading roles. And being in the leading role is no commentary on being Black."

The Lightyear actress stars in the film alongside Daniel Kaluuya, playing siblings Jill and James Haywood, owners of Haywood Ranch, home of Hollywood's only black-owned horse trainers. The duo recently lost their father to what they suspect are the aliens hovering over their property, and they hatch a scheme to capture and sell the first authentic look at UFOs. Kevin (Brandon Perea) is hired to set up their new UFO-detecting camera system, while Craig (Michael Wincott) is their photographic expert. But they soon learn that the aliens won't let them have what they want so easily. 

Steven Yeun, Barbie Ferreira, Keith David, Donna Mills and Andrew Patrick Ralston are also in the film.

While Peele is known for centering the Black experience in his stories, Palmer says what makes his work unique is how often the focus isn't about explaining the trials and tribulations of Blackness to the audience but simply about being Black.

"It is about normalizing and putting Black [people] and people of color at the forefront," she explains. "Telling their narratives and stories effortlessly that includes their culture, but doesn't tie their identity to being Black in a way that's victimized or subservient. It's important for creators like Jordan Peele, actors, and all of us, to continue to push that envelope as it pertains to Black representation being very robust because we are robust people."

Lea Winkler

The actress says that she is driven to push that envelope with her own work, much like the celebrities she holds in high regard such as Queen Latifah and Ice Cube, whom she credits for helping start her career. 

"Because of their success, I got an opportunity," she says. "Many young people want to find a way to get into the business and think that the only way you could be is onscreen. We've got gaffers, we've got key grips, and we have people that work in electric. I hope one day I can be in a position to produce and create opportunities for people in my community, not just on-screen but behind the screen."

It's all part of her plan, which involves many more chapters that she's only begun to explore. She calls her 20s "the end of the first Renaissance Age book," and says she's looking forward to the next adventure that allows her to expand on that chapter. 

"That can be as much behind the screen as I have been in front of the screen," she adds. "I'm excited to produce more, write, direct, and provide other opportunities for more people interested in doing behind-the-scenes work."

Nope hits theaters on July 22.