Keke Palmer Talks Emotional Challenges of Child Stardom, Trying to Please, Being ‘Misunderstood’
“At a young age, as a child [in the] entertainer world, your emotions are always the last thing that people care about,” said the “True Jackson, VP” star.
Keke Palmer has come triumphantly through her days as a childhood star, kicking off her career with “Barbershop 2” in 2004 and achieving kid stardom as the lead in “True Jackson, VP.” But, as many former child stars have talked about, it’s not an easy thing to do.
For Keke, it was about learning how to navigate that emotional journey through childhood in the spotlight without having perhaps the guidance one might hope for from the adults in her professional world.
“At a young age, as a child [in the] entertainer world, your emotions are always the last thing that people care about,” she said during an appearance on InStyle’s editor-in-chief’s podcast “Ladies First with Laura Brown.”
As a result, Keke said that child stars tend to quickly become people-pleasers, “trying to be everything that everybody wants you to be. And so I think in a lot of that, you end up being misunderstood.”
Certainly, it’s hard to navigate that journey through childhood that’s supposed to be about finding yourself and discovering who you really are when you feel an obligation to make everyone around you feel pleased with who you are and what it is that you’re doing.
“I’ve fought a lot of that most of my adult life,” said the 27 year old, admitting that she still has to battle with herself to try and not worry about whether other people understand her, because she’s come to understand herself. And that’s enough.
In fact, it’s so much enough, that Keke has found that she’s often more comfortable alone with herself than with other people. “Sometimes it’s much easier because I don’t have to please anybody but myself,” she explained. “I find so much ease with being alone because I actually like me.”
She went on to push back against the notion that a people-pleaser is only that way because of some deep-rooted flaw in themselves, or they suffer from self-esteem issues.
“Actually, no. It’s y’all not knowing what y’all want and projecting that on me that’s giving me the stress,” she said. “Me, on my own, in my own room, I’m happy as hell.”
She also remains eternally optimistic that “dreams are possible,” calling the fact that she can still hold onto such an ideal “naivete.”
“II realized that I’m naive in many ways, but I’ve kind of protected it, you know, and relied on my faith and my sheer belief in manifestation,” she said. “So even though my understanding of it is a little bit more aware, I’m still the same, and I still choose to live in that fearless and confident space.”
One way in which her fearless confidence has manifested is in how she’s come to embrace the skin she’s in, ultimately opening up about her struggles with acne and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). But more than just opening up about it, she’s actually taken the braver step of stripping off the makeup and sharing her true beauty with the world … though she called it more just getting tired than bravery.
“When I was at the ages of like 13, 14, 15, it was like, you could never see me without makeup. I was not playing around,” she said. “But as I got older, I think I really just kind of got tired. It was tiring to me to keep on hiding my skin and to keep on doing that whole thing.”
That sense of understanding has expanded to her career as well, with Keke saying she’s always had a pretty zen attitude about her acting career, but it’s been more of a challenge with music as that was a childhood dream, which proved a bigger challenge than her dreams could make manifest.
“I had to really come to that understanding that success is what you make it and what you design it to be,” she said. “Everybody is not Beyoncé, and that’s alright. That doesn’t mean that you’re not amazing because if you’re not Beyoncé, maybe you are Norah Jones.”
Or maybe you’re Keke Palmer.
Ultimately, Keke is proud of the place she finds herself on her emotional journey of self-discovery and self-love. And she had some words of wisdom for anyone perhaps struggling on that journey themselves.
“People still ain’t going to understand you, but it’s not really those people’s faults for not understanding you,” she said. “It’s your fault for caring.”