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

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.