Keke Palmer Says She Was "Misunderstood" As a Child Star

“Your emotions are always the last thing that people care about.” 

Keke Palmer
Photo: Courtesy of Keke Palmer

Keke Palmer is confident and comfortable with being herself — and being by herself. But it hasn't always been that way.

Palmer rose to fame as a kid on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon circa 2008. But being a child star and gracing the cover of Tiger Beat isn't always what it's cracked up to be.

"At a young age, as a child [in the] entertainer world, your emotions are always the last thing that people care about," she tells InStyle's editor-in-chief Laura Brown on this week's episode of Ladies First with Laura Brown. "I think you get really quickly into being a people-pleaser and trying to be everything that everybody wants you to be. And so I think in a lot of that, you end up being misunderstood."

Since growing out of her child stardom and transitioning to her adult career, Palmer has learned to stop caring so much about what the public thinks of her. But she says it's something she still works at every day.

"I've fought a lot of that most of my adult life, and I'm still new into my adult life," she said. "And I think that's something that I work towards every day is to not worry about people not understanding me, because I understand myself."

Keke Palmer on Being a Boss: Episode 18: April 6, 2021

InStyle Ladies First with Laura Brown

These days, Palmer enjoys her own company the most now that she's comfortable with who she is. Sometimes she actually prefers to be alone — a notion that's seriously relatable.

"Sometimes it's much easier because I don't have to please anybody but myself," she said. "I find so much ease with being alone because I actually like me. That's what's so crazy, is because people assume if you want to always please people or be nice, it's because you have an issue or esteem problem with yourself. But actually, no. It's y'all not knowing what y'all want and projecting that on me that's giving me the stress. Me, on my own, in my own room, I'm happy as hell."

Even before she felt at peace with who she was, she always believed in herself. Believed that she could be anything and achieve anything. She calls it "naiveté," we call it bravery and confidence.

"I really believe that dreams are possible," she says. "I realized that I'm naive in many ways, but I've kind of protected it, you know, and relied on my faith and my sheer belief in manifestation. So even though my understanding of it is a little bit more aware, I'm still the same, and I still choose to live in that fearless and confident space."

And now she's an absolute boss (her name on Instagram is even "BIG BOSS"), whether she's starring alongside Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, killing it (literally) in Scream Queens, slaying as Marty Maraschino in the Grease Live! television event, or helping others by sharing her journey with PCOS and acne. Which was another aspect of herself that took her some time to accept.

"When I was at the ages of like 13, 14, 15, it was like, you could never see me without makeup," she says. "I was not playing around. But as I got older, I think I really just kind of got tired. It was tiring to me to keep on hiding my skin and to keep on doing that whole thing."

Palmer's self-love and acceptance is something we can all take notes on. And she has a little advice:

"People still ain't going to understand you, but it's not really those people's faults for not understanding you, it's your fault for caring," she says.

Listen to the full episode and subscribe on Apple, PlayerFM, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. And tune in weekly to Ladies First with Laura Brown hosted by InStyle's editor in chief Laura Brown, who speaks to guests like Michelle Pfeiffer, Emily Ratajkowski, Cynthia Erivo, Naomi Watts, La La Anthony, Ellen Pompeo, Rep. Katie Porter, and more to discuss current events, politics, some fashion, and, most importantly, the major firsts in their lives.

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