Keke Palmer was born Lauren Keyana Palmer in Harvey, Illinois, a south suburb of Chicago, to Sharon and Larry Palmer, both former actors. Palmer showed vocal promise as a five-year-old, when she belted out “Jesus Loves Me” in her church choir. A year later the singer-actress had a solo in her kindergarten play but, to her mom’s dismay, the mike had not been adjusted to suit her daughter’s height. Without missing a beat, Palmer lowered the mike and moved the crowd with her heavenly voice. At that very moment, her family knew there was something special about Keke (a nickname given to her by her sister).
Although music was still her passion, Palmer’s first big break came via her acting skills, making her big-screen debut in Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004) as Queen Latifah’s niece. Immediately recognizing her star potential, the film’s producers encouraged her parents to take their daughter to California to explore other acting opportunities. Relocating required that Palmer’s parents leave behind the security of their jobs, a newly purchased home and uproot their other three children. However, it didn’t diminish the family’s support of Palmer’s aspirations.
Once settled on the West Coast, Palmer did not waste any time. Within six weeks she had booked an episode of the critically acclaimed CBS series Cold Case (2003), a national K-Mart commercial and was chosen from a nationwide search to play opposite William H. Macy in a TNT movie, The Wool Cap (2004). Her performance was so amazing that it earned her a Screen Actors Guild nomination–to date, she is the youngest actress (then at age ten) ever to receive a nomination in a Lead Actress Category.
In 2006 Palmer appeared as the lead character “Akeelah Anderson” in the critically acclaimed, award-winning film Akeelah and the Bee (2006). The film, about a young South Los Angeles girl who attempts to win a national spelling bee, won the hearts of audiences everywhere. Her breakthrough performance has received praise from many film critics and organizations. Among the list of nominations received, “Akeelah and the Bee” was listed as one of NBR’s 2006 Top Independent Films of the Year, as well as four nominations from the NAACP Image Awards. Palmer, alone, won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture, as well as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture by the Black Movie Awards. She has also received nominations for Most Promising Newcomer by the Chicago Film Critics, Best Actress by the Black Reel Awards, and Best Young Actress by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Keke held her own in scenes with veteran co-stars Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.
That very same year, Palmer appeared in Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion (2006), which was #1 at the box office for two consecutive weeks. Palmer went on to win a 2007 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her breakout role in “Akeelah and the Bee”. She also received a ShoWest Award for Rising Star of the Year. Shortly after, Palmer lit up the small screen starring in the Disney Channel’s hit movie, Jump In! (2007). This one-two punch of big-screen success coupled with small screen ratings power made Keke Palmer a household name in Hollywood.
Palmer contributed her first recording, which was featured on the “Akeelah and the Bee” soundtrack, titled “All My Girlz”, and followed it up with the ever popular “My Turn Now” on the “Jump In!” soundtrack. As if two soundtracks were not enough, she was also asked to sing “Tonight”, an end title song from the smash-hit Ben Stiller movie, Night at the Museum (2006). Her Atlantic Records debut album, “So Uncool”, is jammed with up-tempo R&B tracks, inspirational moments, and love songs. In 2008, Palmer starred in the Weinstein Co. feature, The Longshots (2008). The film was based on the true story of a young female quarterback, played by Palmer, that makes Pop Warner history; she starred opposite Ice Cube, for first time director and Limp Bizkit front man, Fred Durst.
Palmer also starred as the title character in the hit Nickelodeon series, True Jackson, VP (2008), for 68 episodes, she played a high-school student who becomes the head of a major fashion label. In the fall of 2008, “True Jackson” bowed with over 4.8 million viewers, setting a record for Nickelodeon’s largest audience for a live-action premiere. She has received four NAACP Awards for Best Actress in Children’s Television for her role as “True Jackson”.
Keke starred in the movie, Abducted: The Carlina White Story (2012), for the Lifetime Network. She had a voice role in the 20th Century Fox animated film, Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), as the character “Peaches”. Her co-stars include Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Jennifer Lopez and Queen Latifah.
Palmer was seen on the big screen in the Alcon/Warner Bros movie, Joyful Noise (2012), singing alongside legendary Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, however, it was Palmer who the critics singled out for her “young and inspiring” rendition of the Michael Jackson song, “Man in the Mirror”.
Palmer resides in Los Angeles, CA.
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