Keke Palmer isn’t waiting for Hollywood to give her opportunities; she continues to create a lane for herself. A child star-turned-seasoned actress, the 29-year-old has been working nonstop and even earned the moniker “Keke ‘Stay With A Job’ Palmer.” After launching her pride and joy KeyTV, a network that serves to “spotlight a new generation of creators,” the Primetime Emmy Award recipient also recently announced, during her “Saturday Night Live” hosting gig, that she’s pregnant and preparing to welcome her first baby too. She is a young icon who juggles countless hats, personally and professionally.
In addition to shows like “Heaux & Tell” and “Make It Make Sense” on the network, today (Jan. 19) Keke unveiled a new unscripted music series called “Unlabeled,” where she and her mother, Sharon Palmer, serve as the first guests. The program “looks at the journey of independent artists and how they’ve navigated their paths in the music industry.” It’s the first time the triple threat opened up about her experience with going from signed to “unlabeled.”
In an exclusive conversation with REVOLT, Keke Palmer discusses rejection, her goals for her new platform, and the type of mom she hopes to be.
The season one premiere of “Unlabeled” revealed your mom was one of the first people who believed in your talent and pushed you to greater heights. What’s the most important lesson you learned from her?
She taught me never to let anyone’s reflection of you be a reflection of yourself. It’s the best lesson because so many things have derived from that, which allows me to reinvent and reignite [myself] for this business and life. I never allow myself to be pigeonholed into what people think of me or want me to be in this business.
You had a Disney pilot that almost came to fruition, titled “Keke & Jamal,” but it didn’t get picked up. What did that early moment in your career teach you about rejection?
Man, that’s such a good question. It’s interesting because rejection didn’t affect me much until my teens, as we’re susceptible to taking things a bit more personally. When I was heavily in music around the age of 12, it affected me more when it came to rejection. When it came to acting, I was more surprised because it was new, and no matter how it went, I was happy to be there — expectations make things a bit more complicated. My time singing in the church when things didn’t go my way with music affected me because that was supposed to go well for me. When I started acting, it wasn’t until I was around 17 or 18 that rejection affected me because I expected things to be one way, and then they weren’t. Regarding rejection, I trained myself to go back to little me because she was going with the flow.
What’s your goal for KeyTV in 2023?
My goal for KeyTV is to be consistent because it’s a self-starting venture — while I have people working with me, nobody is telling us when we need to invest time into the network because we’re doing it ourselves. I want to ensure I meet my deadlines and bring my ideas to life… finish what I start. I want to continue to submit amazing content, whether it’s digital or it grows into something more traditional. I want to see the people who work with me gain more opportunities, as I don’t want this to be the last chapter for them. I foresee the network having long relationships with creators and introducing new creators. I also want to establish relationships with brands and create a pathway to teach and train the next generation to break into this industry.
What type of content are you looking to showcase on KeyTV, and what’s one way you would like to see the network expand?
I would like to see more millennial, Gen-Z content — not too edgy and wholesome, but right in the middle of what’s happening. It can be a comedy, drama, or nostalgia. It feels like throwback content in a few ways, and you can watch with anybody, but it’s good, and you’re being fed something for your age or older. There’s a thoughtfulness and heart to it that I always wanted my work to have, ranging from television shows, short films, reality shows, and conversation pieces. A tangible way we can grow is the quality of our production. I like how it is now; however, there are always different ways we can go, which come from various partnerships and collaborations.
Why was KeyTV Network vital for you to build, and is the platform mainly for Black creators?
It’s geared toward Black creators, but it doesn’t mean that if you’re not Black, you can’t participate. I wanted to use my platform to showcase these Black creators, so they can be in some of the spaces I’m in and be seen. Many of us are out here doing a lot, but it’s hard for people to see our work — our community has a lot to offer, and people don’t know or credit us for what we’re offering. So many great things were happening for me, and it was overwhelming trying to figure out how to reinvest the information I was getting and, financially, what can I build because, after a while, it feels crazy… Who else is it for? The information and blessings don’t need to stay with me. So, I wanted to find a way to put the information in something tangible and practical, so that’s how we ended up with KeyTV.
You had a talk show in the past, “Strahan, Sara, and Keke.” Will you take another shot at hosting again on this platform?
You’ll see elements of talk show Keke in a series called “Dear Keke.” We have some talk show things in the works, so you’ll need to wait and see. Your girl is always ready to talk, so as long as there’s a Keke, there will always be a talk show moment.
How does it feel going from signed to “unlabeled”?
It was a crazy journey. Everyone assumes they need certain things like an agent, manager, or label to be successful in this business. They are helpful because they are applicable to you, [but] not what you may need. It’s designed for us to think like that and [it] exists off of creators — these things should be an assistance to us, not an assistance to them. My journey was thinking I needed to prove something to these people, and I realized they needed to prove themselves to me, and if not, they aren’t helpful to me. Going from signed to unlabeled made me know I need to be my support.
While you can get label support and investments, it’s not always what it should be, and sometimes it comes with the control you don’t want to have. This was a journey of patience, ownership, and freedom — owning the space and doing it on my terms.
Is there any advice your mom has given you as you embark on your motherhood journey, and what kind of mom are you hoping to be?
I hope my a** isn’t trying to be too d**n cool with my d**n baby (laughs) because then I can’t get them under control. I feel like I will be a playful mom and play too d**n much (laughs). I do want to be a fun type of mama but also a respected kind of mama. I don’t know what type of mom I’ll be, but I’ll be engaged and entertaining my baby. My mom encourages me as I embark on my new journey. She says, “You’ll go out there and love your baby; enjoy your time and blessings.” She tells me I will be excellent, present, and give it my all. I can’t wait to give the content to y’all!
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