Keke Palmer is known for staying busy. Her latest gig: Starring in Usher’s “Boyfriend” music video. It was a boss move that many, including Jennifer Lopez, called “savage” in the best way.
This kind of strategy is what makes Keke “Keep a Job” Palmer a true businesswoman. For Millennials, especially, it’s hard to recall a time when the bubbly, hilarious, deeply talented star wasn’t on our screens—whether it was in her roles as a child actor and musician, her viral video skits, or her role in Jordan Peele’s blockbuster Nope. But Palmer’s career is only beginning—and rapidly evolving. She represents a unique type of creative entrepreneurship, drive and dedication.
On July 13, at the Howard Theatre in Washington D.C., Palmer dispensed some of her business wisdom to a small, intimate crowd during her show, “Keke Palmer Presents: Big Boss Era ‘Empowering Yourself to Create the Life You Want.’”
This event was held mere days after the father of Palmer’s son, Darius Daulton, took to Twitter to shame her for her outfit choice during an Usher concert, tweeting, “It’s the outfit tho… you a mom.” It became a viral moment Palmer herself reframed and capitalized on. She created T-shirts that said “I’m a Motha” and most recently, as referenced above, starred in Usher’s music video.
Palmer has been candid about her journey as a new mother, but at this event, she elaborated on how it has impacted her career, specifically. “I would be nervous, thinking to myself, ‘Oh no, what is that gonna do? How’s it gonna change my career? Am I gonna be the same person?’ I was so uncertain,” she told the audience.
But in motherhood, Palmer surprised herself by finding a new confidence and feeling more powerful than before. She added, “I never would’ve imagined that my son would’ve given me such a deep confidence and empowerment to just really be like, ‘Yo, we about to do this.’”
Every mom’s journey is different, noted Palmer, who clarified that the choice to not pursue work as a new mom is a valid one. But those who are anxious to get back on the grind postpartum should also feel empowered to do so, she emphasized, “If you are a person that wants to be a mom and would also like to work, I think it’s fair for us to start changing the narrative and letting people know that you can do that.”
Palmer also offered sound guidance for anyone navigating their professional life through anecdotes, shedding light on some of her most difficult career decisions. She spoke about feeling like hosting was her calling and being torn between pursuing that or taking a role on The Game. Ultimately, she took too long to make the decision, and The Game was taken off the table. “Losing that opportunity felt really bad, because I had a lot of financial issues at the time,” Palmer explained. But that closed door turned out to be a blessing that provided more aligned opportunities. She would shortly after embark upon her next venture, Just Keke, a talk show that had its first and only season in 2014. Even though the show didn’t last long, it put her and her hosting skills on the map.
“Years later, I can say ‘Yeah, you did the right thing,’” she said. “From [Just Keke], I did Good Morning America and hosted the Met Gala. I wondered if I made a mistake, but it ended up working in my favor.” It was a true lesson in trusting your gut.
And years later, Palmer is truly thriving in the entertainment industry, while continuing to stay true to herself. At the event, Palmer treated audience members to a short film by her production company KeyTV, which explores her challenges and triumphs in this industry, especially dealing with sexism. Interspersed were original music videos from her album Big Boss.
Near the end of the event, Palmer said her goal for KeyTV is to keep producing great content and uplifting marginalized writers, actors, and directors. “We want to find leaders so we can continue to help and cultivate talent,” she shared. Safe to say she can add “mentor” to her long list of career titles.