Keke Palmer Opens Up About Her 20s, Fame, and Shopping

Photo: Sansho Scott/

Last week, in full press for his new film Nope, Keke Palmer took a red-eyed flight to the Hamptons for Saks Fifth Avenue’s annual summer launch intimate dinner party. The last time Palmer and I spoke was on Zoom, exactly 12 months into the pandemic, and we were both locked in our homes. So seeing her IRL, wearing a LaQuan Smith red nylon two-piece, side-parted braids in two buns and sparkling red eyeshadow, was a first for me.

After mingling with guests, eating a plate full of appetizers (she loved mozzarella sticks) and doing TikToks with guests, Palmer took a seat next to Saks CEO Marc Metrick, for an intimate dinner. We had a quick seven minutes to chat.

You made your first film appearance in 2004 in Barbershop 2. It might be a weird question, but do you really like being famous?

I don’t really like fame. The benefits are not as great as one might think. As an artist, it’s good when people know about your work, so you can discuss it and it’s exciting for people to be able to give you feedback on what you’ve done. But the concept of celebrity can somehow dehumanize you.

Since you started working before you were a teenager, have you ever had time to hang out at the mall with your friends?

I’ll be honest, even when I was younger I was always an online shopper. A lot of my malls didn’t have what we needed. I grew up in Chicago and Pasadena, so it wasn’t like I had the Beverly Center. So I found that the best way to get to the stores I wanted to shop was online. I still do to this day. I need to see and send it back if it’s not right and get another size.

But you are working with Saks now, so I’m sure shopping is an entirely new experience. What are the benefits of working with a department store?

You enter all purchases. My last thing I bought from Saks was one of those tiny Balenciaga bags, the classic shape. Small bags are coming back, but for me options are what I love.

You are about to turn 29 next month, your last years in your twenties. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in this decade?

Your 20s are hyped up, they are actually the scariest years of your life. Everyone tells you that you’ve grown up, but you don’t know anything because you’re nervous and hard on yourself. I spent a lot of time doing this and then realizing that it’s good. Everything is an opportunity to learn from something. I don’t need to be this perfect all the time, anything will work out as long as I keep focusing on my path. Everything happens in divine timing.

What excites you the most in your thirties?

An era of letting go and letting God kind of vibe.

You’re famous for your memes like “I’m sorry for that man” and Keke “stay with a job” Palmer. Is there any truth in memes?

I Direct for memes. I think the main reason the “sticking with one job” meme is true is because I don’t limit myself to just one job. Often we feel like we have to be one thing and yes there is the concept of being good at something before trying something else. There is some truth in that, but I think more than anything, I really follow my interests. I’m not afraid to engage in other skills. So I tell people to keep expanding their skills and not feel like you have to be in a box.

Okay, speaking of having skills, in your role in Hustlers, the most iconic scene was when you ran away from the hospital with your buttocks spread. What’s the hardest thing about running off with guys with no ass?

I didn’t want to fall and break my face, everyone was watching. And just selling the humor of the moment with the reality of the situation the character was enduring. My character was like: I’m not going to jail for all of you!

You have another movie coming out this week, that of Jordan Peele Nope. You and Daniel Kaluuya are siblings in the film. What was the dynamic on set?

Me and Daniel are very much like siblings. I always joke with him. We have totally different energies, but at the same time we share such a similar passion for the arts, obviously, so we really connected on that. He also started very young.

Oh good? I did not know.

A lot of people don’t know that he started acting as a teenager, so we talked about that as well. We have a lot of similarities, so working together was like a great opportunity to make a new friend. That’s really what it was, we were kicking things off as much as we were talking and hanging out on set. It was a dream of mine to work with him since I saw him in the black mirror episode he did. His performance was so nuanced. Then when I saw him in get out and I thought, Yeah, he don’t slow down.

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