Representing black culture in media started at a young age for actress and author Keke Palmer, and this was a large part of her discussion with students during a question and answer session on Tuesday. The Slippery Rock University Program Board (UPB) hosted the event, held in the Smith Student Center ballroom, as part of a series of events celebrating Black History Month on campus.
You may recognize Palmer most from her role on the Nickelodeon television show “True Jackson, V.P.,” but technically, her original acting debut was at the age of nine when she auditioned for a stage production of “The Lion King.” She did not receive the part, but later, when Palmer’s career did begin, it was definitely interesting.
Her parents, Larry and Sharon Palmer, were not strangers to the acting scene; they met in drama school and worked as professional actors. According to Palmer, they “literally drove four days and three nights to California for me to pursue my dreams, and the rest is history.” The Palmers lived in Illinois at the time.
After her career took off with Nickelodeon, Palmer started to audition for and land more serious parts, including her role as Marty Maraschino in Grease Live! While at first apprehensive to the role, Palmer eventually took to the part.
“We all realized, at the end of those two months, we played a part in creating history and a moment for the younger generations to say, ‘Yeah, they had all kinds of people in this show, and I can relate to it because I can see myself in it,'” she said.
Palmer went on to discuss her many other roles, such as her starring role in the Broadway musical “Cinderella” and her role as Wednesday in the 2018 film “Pimp.”
“I do pride myself in definitely doing work that also shows me different worlds but definitely represents my community,” she said.
After discussing her history in film and television, Palmer gave students in the audience some wise words relating to mental health and how to take care of yourself.
As Palmer discovered while writing her book “I Don’t Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice,” it takes some time to realize that you’re not alone when dealing with anxiety and depression, and that we should all learn to forgive ourselves more — we’re just trying to figure everything out for ourselves.
Palmer closed the discussion with some inspirational words to students who would like to follow in her footsteps.
“You don’t have to fit anyone’s stereotypes,” she said. “You don’t have to try to be what other people want you to be. All you have to do is be true to you, and you can change the world by being an individual, not what people want you to be. We are not one-note as human beings, and definitely not one-note as a culture.”
After the question and answer session, Palmer moved to the theater for a book signing.
UPB has more events coming up this semester, including the spring concert, among others. Keep up with the organization on social media @SRUPB or on CORE.