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Keke Palmer Lives for the Memes

Photo: Sansho Scott/BFA.com

Last week, in the middle of press runs for her new movie Nope, Keke Palmer took a red-eye flight to the Hamptons for Saks Fifth Avenue’s annual summer kickoff intimate dinner. The last time Palmer and I spoke was over Zoom, exactly 12 months into the pandemic, and we were both on lockdown in our homes. So seeing her IRL, wearing a LaQuan Smith nylon red two-piece, braids split into two buns and red eyeshadow gleaming, was a first for me.

After mingling with guests, eating a plate full of hors d’oeuvres (she loved the mozzarella sticks), and making TikToks with guests, Palmer took her seat next to Saks CEO Marc Metrick for an intimate dinner. We got a quick seven minutes to chat.

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

I don’t really love fame. The perks of it aren’t as great as one would think. As an artist it’s great when people know 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 fame can kind of dehumanize you.

Since you started working before you were a teen, did you ever get to have time to just hang 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 out that the best way to get to the stores I want to shop was online. I still do to this day. I need to see and then just send it back if it’s not right and get another size.

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

You get into all the shopping. My most recent thing I’ve gotten at Saks was one of those tiny Balenciaga bags, the classic shape. Tiny bags are coming back, but for me, the options are what I love.

You’re about to be 29 next month though, your last years in your 20s. What’s the biggest lesson you learned in this decade? 

Your 20s are overhyped, they’re actually the scariest years of your life. Everyone is telling you that you’re grown, but you don’t know anything because you’re nervous and hard on yourself. I spent a lot of time doing that and then realizing that it’s okay. Everything is an opportunity to learn from something. I don’t have to be so perfect all the time, everything will happen as long as I continue focusing on my path. It all works out in divine timing.

What excites you most about your 30s? 

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

You are famous for your memes like “I am sorry to this man” and Keke “stay with a job” Palmer. Is there any truth to the memes? 

I live for the memes. I think the biggest reason why the “stay with a job” meme is true is because I don’t limit myself to one job. A lot of times we feel like we have to be one thing and yes, there’s the concept of being good at something before you try something else. There’s some truth to that, but I think more than anything I really follow my interests. I’m not afraid to engage myself in other skills. So I tell people to continue to widen your skillset and don’t 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 butt cheeks out. What is the hardest thing about running away in assless chaps?

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

You have another movie dropping this week, Jordan Peele’s Nope. You and Daniel Kaluuya are siblings in the movie. What was the dynamic like on set? 

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

Really? I didn’t know that.

A lot of people don’t know he started acting as a teenager, so we also related in that regard. We have a lot of similarities, so us working together was just like a great opportunity to make a new friend. That’s really what it was, we were kicking it off set just as much as we would be talking and hanging out on set. It was a dream of mine to work with him ever since I saw him in the Black Mirror episode that he did. His performance was so nuanced. Then when I saw him in Get Out and I thought, Yeah, he’s not slowing down.

Keke Palmer Lives for the Memes