Childhood & Early Life
Keke Palmer was born on August 26, 1993, in Harvey, Illinois, to Sharon and Larry Palmer, both former professional actors. Her father works for a polyurethane company, while her mother is a high school teacher working with autistic children.
As a child, she urged her mother to let her sing solo in the church choir. At the age of five, she surprised everyone with her rendition of 'Jesus Loves Me'. At the age of six, she gave a solo performance in her kindergarten play and moved the audience with her voice.
When she was nine, she auditioned for the stage production of 'The Lion King'. She was not selected as she was too young for the role, but the casting director had praised her talents.
During this time she begged her family to move to Los Angeles (LA), so that she can seek more acting opportunities. Her parents were convinced that she has a future in show business after they realized that casting directors were eager to cast her.
Continue Reading Below
Even though Keke Palmer was very passionate about singing since she was a child, she got her first break in 2004 as an actor, in 'Barbershop 2: Back in Business'. She played the niece of the character played by Queen Latifah.
Six weeks after relocating to LA, she booked a role in an episode of the CBS series 'Cold Case' (2004). Within a year, she appeared in a national K-Mart commercial and was selected via a national search program to play opposite William H. Macy in the movie, 'The Wool Cap'. Her performance in the movie earned her critical acclaim.
During this time, in an attempt to establish herself as a singer, she participated in the 'American Idol' spin-off series 'American Juniors', which was later cancelled. In 2005, she was signed by Atlantic Records and released her debut single, 'All My Girlz', which was later included in the soundtrack of 'Akeelah and the Bee'.
In 2005, she appeared in the television film 'Knights of the South Bronx'. The same year, she also made guest appearances on three TV series, 'Second Time Around', 'ER' and 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'.
In 2006, she was cast in the lead role of 'Akeelah Anderson' in the award-winning film 'Akeelah and the Bee'. She charmed critics and the audience with her portrayal of a poor bright girl who attempts to win 'Scripps National Spelling Bee'. The same year, she got a supporting role in the film 'Madea's Family Reunion'.
She performed in front of thousands of people for the first time in November 2006, in Carson, California for VH1's 'Save the Music' Battle of the High School Marching Bands competition. Later, she also featured in the music video for the song 'Runaway Love' by Ludacris and Mary J. Blige. The same year, her song 'Tonight' was featured as the first song in the end credits of the movie 'Night at the Museum'.
In 2007, she got the lead role of Mary in the Disney Channel Original Movie 'Jump In!', which featured her songs 'It's My Turn Now' and 'Jumpin''. She also played a supporting role in the thriller 'Cleaner', alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes.
Her debut album, 'So Uncool' was released on September 18, 2007, led by the single 'Footworkin''. Despite positive reviews, the album performed poorly on the 'Billboard' charts.
In 2008, she was cast in the lead role in the Nickelodeon sitcom 'True Jackson, VP'. Palmer also performed the theme song for the show. The same year, she played lead roles in the films 'The Longshots' and 'Shrink'.
Continue Reading Below
She moved from Atlantic Records to Interscope Records in 2010. The next year, she released her first mixtape, 'Awaken', containing the single 'The One You Call'. Her self-titled second mixtape was released in 2012.
From 2011 to 2014 she had a main voice role in the Nickelodeon series 'Winx Club'. She also lent her voice to the character Peaches in the 2012 animation movie 'Ice Age: Continental Drift'. That year she once again acted alongside Queen Latifah in the film 'Joyful Noise' and also produced and starred in the Nickelodeon musical 'Rags'.
One of her recent big roles has been in the Fox horror series 'Scream Queens'. She has been portraying the main character of Zayday Williams for two seasons since 2015.
Her portrayal of the lead character in 'Akeelah and the Bee' gave Keke Palmer recognition early on in her career. While some critics compared the film to 'Rocky', others commented that Palmer stole the movie from star actors Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.
The Nickelodeon show 'True Jackson, VP' is considered one of her major works. During the series, she became the fourth highest paid child actor on TV, with $20,000 salary per episode.
Awards & Achievements
Keke Palmer's performance in the movie 'The Wool Cap' earned her a 'Screen Actors Guild' nomination in 2004. At the age of ten, she was the youngest actress ever to receive a nomination in a 'Lead Actor' category, and she still holds the record.
For her role in 'Akeelah and the Bee', she has received a number of awards, including 'NAACP Image Awards', 'Chicago Film Critics Association Awards', 'Black Movie Awards' and 'Young Artist Award'. She has also received four 'NAACP Image Awards' for 'True Jackson, VP'.