Keke Palmer Says Hope for a 'Better Tomorrow' Helped Inspire Her New Music (Exclusive)

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Keke Palmer is staying positive in unprecedented times. The multitalented performer is taking the stage as the host of the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, but that's far from the only thing on her plate -- even amid nationwide COVID-19 shutdowns and delays.

In addition to keeping fans entertained with her social media videos, hosting Singled Out on Quibi, scoring a Daytime Emmy nod as co-host of Strahan, Sara and Keke and taking her activism to the streets, Palmer is also returning to the music game with a new EP, Virgo Tendencies: Part 1, which she tells ET's Rachel Smith was born from her mission to stay positive and productive in quarantine.

"I was really inspired from where I was trying to put my mind during the beginning half of quarantine, because it was really hitting me hard that, 'Oh my gosh, I'm not doing my usual schedule, things have kind of turned upside down, how am I gonna deal with this, handle this?' And then I was like, 'What am I gonna do after this?'" she explains. "I focused my mind and my energy on creating this place of hope and faith for a better tomorrow, and that's what turned it into the Virgo Tendencies: Part 1 EP, which is a collection of fun songs that help me get through quarantine."

"That kept my spirits high. And I just wanted to offer it to my fans," the Hustlers star adds of the collection, which kicked off with saucy lead singles "Sticky," "Thick" and "Snack" earlier this summer.

While music has helped Palmer keep her optimism up, she's been a motivating force for many others -- particularly those taking to the streets in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. The host and performer went viral in June when she was seen having a candid conversation with several National Guard members patrolling a Los Angeles demonstration.

"You have to pay attention to what's going on," she was seen telling the troops, some of whom agreed to march with her group for a short distance. "We have a president that's trying to incite a race war, and the borders are closed. We can't leave. You have people in here that need your help. This is when you stand together with community, with society, to stop the governmental oppression. Period. We need you." 

Of her message moving forward, Palmer tells ET, "We gotta keep going. "Everything's not gonna always be perfect. But we have to really put on our big boy and big girl pants as a young generation that's becoming the new voters and the new people of the world. We gotta understand that we gotta make do with what we have and really figure out how to make a way out of no way."

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Recently I was offered the opportunity to ask Vice President @joebiden some questions to challenge him on some of the issues that are most pressing to me and my peers right now. I hesitated because I know people might be quick to judge this as a political endorsement, but then I thought about it and realized that I am a host. I interview people for a living and we millennials deserve to be heard someway somehow. I did this to help myself and hopefully others get more engaged in the conversation before we cast our votes this November and I am willing to ask the same questions to anybody else trying to be in a position of power that cares to hear what we think. I would never tell anyone what to believe but I will always try to encourage myself and others to speak out and be heard. Whatever your beliefs are, no matter where you stand on the issues of today, I urge you to take control of your destiny and VOTE. It is one of the most powerful ways to use your voice and the way we can all create the changes we want to see in the world together. It is hard and it can be confusing, but don’t get discouraged. I’m right there with you. ❤️

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The performer and activist says that, as she gets older, she understands the importance of standing up for what you believe in: "I gotta really be serious about what I'm involved in and not always expect everything to be perfect."

"We gotta stick together, we gotta be engaged," she adds. "We gotta be involved... be prepared to [put] my, you know, working gloves on and get to work."

Palmer also explains that she put a lot of thought into crafting a VMA show for this particularly fraught moment in history -- amid protests and the global pandemic -- noting that she's hoping to help viewers "escape, but also [come] together."

"I think that's the big theme of the night, when we think about it," she shares. "Our whole mind has been going to, 'We're healing each other.' We're dealing with a lot, there's been a lot going on, so this is a time where we're coming together and we're letting the music bring us together."

The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards air live Sunday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on MTV. 

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