Digital Issue 1-3: Kiki Palmer Digital Issue 1-3: Kiki Palmer

Keke Palmer Sings! From Her Guatemalan Boyfriend to Her Virginal Image

Young actresses like Keke Palmer are needed in Tinseltown to balance the ratio of debauchery and benevolence that tends to lean more toward Lohan than Loretta. There’s a saintliness surrounding the newly turned 18-year-old that could make non-believers in Gen Y convert with ease. Expectantly, Keke--born Lauren Keyana--stars in the upcoming Warner Brothers effort Joyful Noise as Olivia, the coming-of-age daughter who’s striving to refresh old choir hymns and anxious to date.

On a recent Monday, I spoke with the Akeelah and the Bee star to pull back the layers on her “good girl” image. Audiences witnessed the Illinois-born Interscope Records signee come to life alongside Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett. Since that first lead silver screen role, Palmer has found a way to stand out in supporting parts and parlay her success into her own Nickelodeon-housed sitcom True Jackson VP. Spreading love to the Disney sect as well, she also carried the made-for-TV film, Jump In!

It’s not hard to imagine the über modest teenager as the second coming of Oprah, Queen Latifah or Raven-Symoné. With a few notable awards under her belt, a debut album and sights on a beauty venture, the idea of building her own moneymaking empire is not far-fetched. Most anticipated is the shedding of her typecast present to create an invigorating, Oscar-worthy future.

Luckily for us, audiences may soon get a chance to see the transformation. In her forthcoming role in Virgin Mary, a tale about two friends vowing to cast off their pristine virginity by age 18, Palmer and fellow young Hollywood starlet Abigail Breslin intend to upset their pleasant onscreen images with a bit of dark realism. Although we won’t catch a glimpse of Keke’s inner rebel until this year is long gone, we’ve pulled up a seat, grabbed the popcorn and anxiously watch Keke’s real life coming-of-age story.

Your first thoughts once you landed the movie?
Creatively, this is perfect for me because I’ve always been looking for a movie where I could sing or show that ability of mine because have always known me as Keke Palmer the actress. You know, with me coming out with an album soon, it just seemed like a perfect fit. Then also, I’m Keke Palmer the little Akeelah and the Bee [actress]. People know me as that young sweet girl, and though that’s who I am, I’m growing up. I’m 18 now, and that’s the same thing that my character is going through. She’s still that sweet, young person, but people always want to treat her like this little kid, but she’s ready to grow and come her own person.

It is definitely something that you’re going through in real life, as well. Now that you’re 18, how does it feel?
I actually hate being 18 because you're not anything. [Laughs] You're not a grown adult, but you're also not a teenager. It's such a confusing age, and I just can't wait until I'm out of it, honestly. But this is where you learn and you grow and you realize who you really are.

Trust me, it’s quite a journey. One thing that stood out to me was your dad’s attendance at the cover shoot. Do you appreciate have your family so involved and hands on with what you do, or do you yearn to spread your wings and do your own thing?
No, I’m happy when they’re with me and are there to protect me and be aware of the things I have going on. They know more; they’ve experienced more. Although they’ve never experienced acting, having them here is a safety blanket and I appreciate it. They don’t handicap me, but they’re good to have around.

Of course, it’s a healthy support system. I got a chance to speak with him for a bit, and it seems you come from a strong, close-knit family. How has that molded you in dealing with the always naughty and sometimes nice lifestyle of Hollywood?
My family has always taught me to have morals, be a good person, you know, that whole thing. But at the same time, when I’m acting, it’s not like I’m going to turn down every role. Like, I said I would an intimate scene if it didn’t show my whole body. It’s not like I just won’t do this or I just won’t do that, but if they can change it in a way where it could be fitting for me, then that’s okay. I’m not going to break down and do a topless scene or anything like that, but I’d probably do an intimate scene if it was like Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps in Love and Basketball. That was classic. That wasn’t like overt or anything like that. No, I don’t want to be typecast, but I don’t want to do things that I look back on and say, ‘Well, why did I do that?’

Is there a dark side or a rebel inside you that’s dying to get out in a character role?
Of course, of course! I probably would do something like [The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo]. I don't know if I would show my boobs—that’s so scary to do—but, at the same time, you didn't feel like that girl was a slut. When I saw it, I just thought brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! You can never say never because there may come a part that does the things that you say you don't want to do, but in a way that doesn't make you seem a certain way. There's always some type of an exception.

With this Joyful Noise in particular, how was it working with Queen Latifah who has worked with you before?
Amazing! I’m older now; we go to talk about more. I got to know her as a person versus a little kid working with an adult. I got to know her, [and] it was really inspiring.

I’m glad you mention that because, honestly, what she’s doing now is exactly what many can see you becoming.
I just want to keep going, and take all the things that I’ve learned. When I look at Michael [Jackson], everything that he’s learned from watching James Brown or when he watched Sam Cooke or the Temptations or Jackie Wilson, he took it all and that’s what created Michael. Nothing is completely original. You take the things that inspire you and you create them and turn them into you. You know what I mean? So, I take all those great things around me and I mix them up with me and create something great hopefully.

And how would you parlay your success into other ventures as Queen Latifah did?
I always think about what people like most about me. If you look at Rihanna, people love her for her clothing, for her style. If she came out with a clothing line, that would be extremely fitting. Who wouldn't want to buy clothes from Rihanna? So, for me, people love my hair. I would love to come out with a hair extensions line. That's something that I've really, really been thinking about because people always ask me where did I get my hair. People trust my opinion in hair and they would buy it from me.

Something you're looking at doing soon?
I would have to start now and hopefully it would be out in the next two years.

Now, your co-star and love interest in the film is played by Jeremy Jordan. In your real life, would you ever date outside your culture?
I’ve thought about it. It always seemed so difficult to me because I want to be understood culturally. When I’ve had crushes on other cultures, sometimes they don’t understand. They don’t get my jokes; they don’t get who I am or my family or anything like that. It’s not like I don’t find white guys or [other cultures] attractive, it’s just I want to be understood.

My boyfriend now is Guatemalan and Black, and he was raised by his mother who is Guatemalan, so he’s the only Black person. It’s culturally different, but I realized I can still find a way to understand [them]. Even though everyone is speaking Spanish around me and I don’t understand it, his mother is so kind and open that there’s not a problem. I don’t feel like I’m an outsider.

Hmm, this is the gentleman all over your Instagram! [Laughs] How did you meet him?
One day, Patrick [Johnson, Jr.] came to the set of True Jackson VP, and he brought Rodney, my boyfriend, with him. My mouth dropped when I saw him, and I’m just like, Keke, control yourself! [Laughs] I was 15 years old at the time, and he was 19, so we didn’t talk or anything like that. I just always had a huge crush on him. Then when I was like 17, I talked to my parents ’cause my mom was like, ‘If you want to date somebody, I guess the oldest age would be 21.’ I just couldn’t believe that she said that to me. It really almost made my heart skip a beat because I always liked him.

Aw, so this was the classic crush. Butterflies in your stomach, hands sweaty crush?
Yes, girl! Everything like that. I was head over heels for him. We had this meeting with my dad before we could date and then my dad said, ‘You guys have to wait four months before you could date alone.’ Like, we’d go on group dates, but we couldn’t go on dates alone until six months before my 18th birthday.

With you being Miss Keke Palmer --  and 18 now--, how are you dealing with the groupie love?
Oh yeah, I love it! Seriously, I do. Whenever I see the love on my Twitter page or something like that and they tell me that they love me or they're going to marry me, I always just say it back. [Laughs]

Tell me a little about you upcoming role in Virgin Mary and working with Abigail Breslin?
We haven’t started to film it yet, but I’m very excited because this is something new for me. People have always known me, as I said, as Keke Palmer the “good girl.” In this movie, I’m not necessarily being a huge slut, but my character is just that. She’s like, ‘I’m a sex enthusiast. That’s who I am,’ but the reason why I chose this film was because it’s different from what everybody knows me as. This character spoke to me because she was funny, [and] she was likeable. Even if I didn’t play the character, you would immediately love her because she’s just lovable. It’s almost like [Draya] on Basketball Wives LA. People can say whatever they want about her, but you like Draya because that’s who she is. You either like her or you don’t. No fronting, no nothing.

What’s your take on young women losing their virginity and making a pact about it?
I hate to say, ‘This is not what you should do’ or anything like that. At the same time, any of the choices you make, you have to be happy about them later on. When I think a pact, it just seems rushed and you should do things on your own time. I never put an age on anything. If you’re 16 and you lose your virginity to somebody and you really truly loved them at that time, then who am I to tell you that you were wrong? If you look back on that in 20 years and you say, ‘That guy deserved that from me,’ then that’s the issue? There are a lot of women that are 20-year-olds that lost their virginity and they look back and say, ‘What a big mistake!’

It’s not about age.
No, it’s about the person inside. Whatever decisions you make in your life, especially a big decision like that, make sure it’s the right one for you.

I agree. Now, musically, where are you right now?
I’m in the middle of everything. I’m almost finished. Hopefully, I’ll be able to have a single out within the next three months. That’ll be ideal, but we’ll see. I’m recording and excited. It’s a mixture of R&B and hip-hop. Like, right in the middle. It’s not too R&B, not too pop.

Lastly, tell me about your New Year's Eve. Did you get your midnight kiss?
Yes, I did! My first one ever.
Photographer: Justin Hyte
Stylist: Heidi Roman
Hair: Cynthia Alvarez
Make Up: Brandon Zimoyer

Cover:
Top, $195, Loza Maléombho; available at Oxosi.com. Shorts, $325, Halston; available at bloomingdales.com. Necklace, $340, Lizzy Couture; lizzycouture.com.

Bed Shot:
Dress, $115, Blaque Label; available at lulus.com. Franklinton Arrow Bangle (left hand), $150, Bernard James; available at Oxosi.com. Infinity Bangles (right hand), $88, & Gwyneth Bangle, $185, Melinda Maria; melindamaria.com. Shoes, $350, Brian Atwood; available at bloomingdales.com

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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