The stunning transformation of Keke Palmer

Is there anything Keke Palmer (aka Lauren Keyana Palmer) can't do? The actress, singer, TV host, and writer has been in the biz since she was a little girl, rising to prominence in the 2006 movie Akeelah and the Bee. Two years later, she starred in the Nickelodeon series True Jackson, VP. Palmer is all grown up now, but her career is stronger than ever. While some child stars struggle to establish themselves as actors in adulthood, Palmer made the leap from child star to Hollywood icon with ease.

Even though Palmer grew up in front of our very eyesthere's a lot that fans don't know about the talented celebrity. She has changed a lot over the years, growing from a little girl singing in her church choir in Illinois to a powerhouse who has taken over the entertainment industry. Here's a closer look at the stunning transformation Keke Palmer has gone through over the course of her career. 

Keke Palmer set her eyes on performing when she was little

Ever since she was a little girl, Keke Palmer knew she wanted to perform. She first began to think about embarking on a career in the arts at the tender age of five. While she didn't plan on becoming an actress at that point, she did know that she wanted to be a singer one day. Palmer told NPR that she was inspired by her mother, who sang in a church choir in Chicago, Illinois.

Palmer begged to be allowed to join the choir. She was finally outfitted with a choir robe, although she noted that she "probably wasn't really, really in the choir" but would "just be sitting there dancing or singing or something."

Still, being even a small part of that choir affirmed in her mind that she wanted to be an entertainer one day. In an interview with Bustle, Palmer revealed that she'd long been drawn to the arts because she "liked to bring joy to people."

Keke Palmer relocated to Hollywood when she was just nine years old

Throughout her childhood, Keke Palmer kept pursuing her love of performance. She told Bustle that her mother brought her to a local theater for her first audition as a way to nurture her love for singing. By the time she was nine years old, she had landed her first film role, a part in 2004's Barbershop 2: Back in Business. Her parents, three sisters, and brother uprooted their lives to move to Hollywood to further Palmer's career. Her mother became her manager and, before long, Palmer's career was off to a better start than her family could've ever hoped for.

In an episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Palmer's "momager" said she thought her daughter would maybe film a few commercials to help pay for college. Instead, Palmer became a bona fide star.

Palmer told Refinery 29 that her parents did her best to give her as normal of a childhood as possible and kept her connected to her community. "My parents were extremely overprotective because they really didn't want me to become this a**hole kid," she said.

Keke Palmer's first kiss was on screen

Growing up on camera wasn't always easy for Keke Palmer. She wrote in her book, I Don't Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice (via Cosmopolitan), that she felt "so alone" after moving to Hollywood. Contrary to her mother's early expectations that Palmer would be a small-time star, Palmer followed up her role in Barbershop 2 with a string of gigs. Roles over the next couple years included spots on TV shows like Strong Medicine and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She also starred in the made-for-TV movies The Wool Cap, Knights of the South Bronx, and Keke & Jamal

In 2006, she landed her big break in Akeelah and the Bee as the titular character who makes her way to the National Spelling Bee. The film was a turning point in Palmer's career. She also experienced her first kiss in the movie, which she described as "funny" to NPR.

Palmer said that auditioning for Akeelah and the Bee was the first time she was truly nervous, because so many girls were auditioning for the role. As she kept getting callbacks, though, her confidence in her acting skills grew. "I thought, well, hey, I'm good if I'm getting this far," she said.

Keke Palmer recorded her first album at 14 years old

Even though Keke Palmer's acting career took off in a big way, she never forgot her first love: singing. At the age of 14, she recorded her debut album, SoUncool.

Palmer wanted to inspire other young people with the album. She named the album SoUncool as a celebration of "being different," telling the Associated Press (via Today) that "some people may think that you're so uncool, but at the same time that makes you cool because you're just being yourself." She added that the album title was about "just being you, being different."

Although Palmer's musical style has evolved as she has gotten older, she doesn't have any regrets about SoUncool. In 2016, she told Interview that she is proud of the album she recorded and likes looking back at it, saying that it still rings true. "The reason why I like that it's out there is it reminds me that the spirit of what I'm doing is still the same, it's just better executed," she said. 

Keke Palmer's transition from film to television "was weird"

At 15, Keke Palmer cemented her status as a teen idol when she landed the titular role on Nickelodeon's True Jackson, VP, playing a teenage girl who becomes the vice president of a major fashion company. Palmer told OK! that she enjoyed "finally [starring in] something that my peers know about" since many of her earlier roles were geared towards more adult audiences. While she said that being on Nickelodeon was "a lot of fun," the transition from working primarily in film to starring on a television show was not exactly easy.

"It was weird," Palmer confessed to BET. While being on a long-running show for the series' duration (2008-2011) was strange for the actress, she relished the stability being on TV offered. Working on a show meant that she had a more stable schedule than she was accustomed to. "With movies, sometimes you're out of state for whatever time and always away from home, so this is cool," she explained.

Keke Palmer became the youngest television talk show host

By the time she turned 20, Keke Palmer had clearly become a force to be reckoned with. The entertainer didn't just have a thriving acting and music career well underway by that point, she also made history when she landed her own talk show, Just Keke, on BET. As noted by USA Today, this made her the youngest television talk show host in history.

Palmer said she wanted to host Just Keke "to have conversations that weren't being had." While Just Keke lasted for just one season, it wasn't the end of Palmer's hosting career. In 2019, she became a co-host on the third hour of Good Morning America, which was later retitled GMA3: Strahan, Sara & Keke.

Palmer has a take it or leave it attitude when it comes to her work. Whether her fans want to follow each of her careers is up to them. Palmer told Teen Vogue that her audience doesn't "have to take me as the conglomerate that I am, but I'm never going to stop because my career is truly just me exuding me in the world."

Keke Palmer came out as sexually fluid

The debut of the music video for Keke Palmer's single "I Don't Belong to You" surprised fans when it was released in 2016. The video, which features Palmer in her underwear, didn't just show that she was very much grown up, but it also fueled speculation that she didn't identify as straight since she ends up with a woman at the end of it. While the video was a coming out of sorts, Palmer refused to put a label on her sexuality.

"The video was to represent the young woman today — it's not the traditional woman anymore — and not the specifics of 'Am I gay? Am I straight? Am I bi?'" she revealed to People. "I'm making the rules for myself, and I don't have to be stuck down to one label."

A few years later, Palmer spoke to Pride Source about being sexually fluid, saying she dates whoever she wants. She added that her family — especially her mom — is very supportive of her sexuality.

Keke Palmer worked hard to shed her child star image

Keke Palmer started her career at such a young age but even as she grew older, there were a lot of people who couldn't shake the image of the star as a little girl. While many former child stars go through a rebellious phase or, worse, wind up off the deep end, Palmer shed her child star image simply by taking on more mature roles. Some of her fans may have been surprised to see her go from starring on a family friendly show like True Jackson, VP to taking on grittier roles like playing a stripper in 2019's Hustlers. To Palmer, though, it's all a part of growing up.

Palmer told Blackfilm that, while roles for child actors are "usually very light," transitioning to adult stardom opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the types of roles an actor can take on. "First of all, you mature and there are other things that interest you," she said. "And then there's more out there for you. It's a bigger audience, when you're an adult."

This is why Keke Palmer refuses to talk about her love life

If Keke Palmer has learned one thing from growing up in the public eye, it's the importance of maintaining her privacy. While curious fans may be interested in her love life, Palmer doesn't give the rumor mill very much to go on. Even in 2019 when former Bachelorette contestant Mike Johnson asked her out on GMA3: Strahan, Sara & Keke, Palmer evaded his question. Although she later explained that she would be turning him down, Palmer didn't reveal much else about that aspect of her life.

The actress told Cosmopolitan that her dating life "doesn't have anything to do with what I'm trying to be about." Instead, Palmer wants people to focus on her art. Anything else is a distraction from her work. "If someone wants to create buzz about who they're surrounded with ... that has nothing to do with what I create," she said. "It just undercuts the focus on the work that I put out."

Keke Palmer has struggled with anxiety and depression

The life of a child star is difficult, even for someone as grounded as Keke Palmer. While Palmer grappled with depression and anxiety since childhood, it wasn't until she was 17 that she found a word to explain what she had been experiencing. In an appearance on The Breakfast Club, she said that it was actually a voicemail from Will Smith that helped her realize that many people deal with anxiety and that she wasn't alone. "So that let me know ... everybody go through stuff. Everybody go through stuff. So guess what? It's all right. You're normal."

Palmer eventually learned there were even more people in her life who could relate. In her book, I Don't Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your VoicePalmer revealed that her mother and grandmother also grappled with anxiety.

Palmer has come a long way since her early days in Hollywood and has found healing over the years through therapy and self care. "Being able to say how I feel, that was something that was so hard for me for so long," she revealed to Cosmopolitan in 2017.

This is why Keke Palmer became selective of the roles she takes on

When Keke Palmer was younger, her parents worked hard to maintain her image. They only selected roles for her that they thought would enhance her career and maintain her wholesome image. Palmer told the Associated Press (via Today) that her mom and dad wanted her to "keep being a role model."

As she got older, Palmer branched into more adult material, but she still kept careful control of the parts she took on. As an adult, though, Palmer is less worried about her image and more concerned about taking on roles that resonate with her. After starring in 2018's Pimp, in which she played the emotionally demanding role as the daughter of a pimp who is grooming her to take over his business, Palmer learned the importance of decompressing from challenging roles. 

"My feelings don't know that this is a joke," she told Teen Vogue of getting into character. The role taught her to only take on parts that mean enough to put herself through such a grueling process. "If you're going to do a deep role, it has to be meaningful to you," she said.

Keke Palmer hasn't always been so outspoken

As Keke Palmer has gotten older, she has also become more outspoken. Growing up, she often felt insecure about her appearance, telling The Grio that, as the only black girl in her class at school, she was teased by her classmates. Making it worse was the fact that she didn't see anyone who looked like her "being shown as beautiful," saying that the only black "representation of beauty" she saw was of someone with lighter skin.

While she may have been insecure as a child, Palmer has certainly come into her own. These days, she's secure in her beauty and comfortable speaking out against colorism in Hollywood and other issues, like poverty and mental health. Palmer said that speaking up for herself helps her "feel empowered."

Palmer has also grown more comfortable with the idea of being a role model, something she has felt pressured to be throughout her career. Today, though, she recognizes that she is in a position to inspire others to "see their own light" and "be their very best."

Keke Palmer started her own record label to battle exploitation

In 2018, Keke Palmer announced her own record label, Big Boss Entertainment. The label was a big step in Palmer's journey of empowerment. She created it because she was tired of seeing artists exploited by the music industry. "I experienced that a lot from the time I was 12 to the time I was 23," she revealed to Forbes.

Palmer was 24 at the time of the interview and said that, over the course of her career, she had been with three record companies and that not one of them did anything to nurture her talent or help her develop "as an artist."

Instead of fighting with labels, Palmer decided to take matters into her own hands. The singer told Billboard that the label isn't just for herself, but for other artists. "I want to empower my peers, so they also feel they're not a part of the old way of doing things and be a part of the big bosses," she said.

Keke Palmer has big plans for the future

Unlike child actors who completely left Hollywood behind, Keke Palmer continues to find success in the industry. There are big things in store for her, although what form those things will take is anyone's guess. Not even Palmer is sure what her future will look like, but she knows she wants to continue in the world of entertainment. One possible career path for Palmer is directing.

"I would love to direct videos and that's what it keeps moving towards, but I have to stop being scared in order to do that," she revealed to Interview. Her IMDb profile lists one directing credit on her resume for the short Ganjapreneurs: Daddy's Little Girl, which was released in September 2016. As of this writing, she doesn't seem to have directed anything else.

One thing is certain though: Palmer will keep exploring her passions, no matter where they lead her. "I don't know exactly what [my career] is going to look like in the next phase, but I'm expecting to surprise myself," she divulged to Teen Vogue.