Lauren Keyana "Keke" Palmer (born August 26, 1993) is an American actress, singer, and television personality. Palmer made her acting debut in the film Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004), and soon received recognition for her starring role in Akeelah and the Bee (2006), for which she won a Chicago Film Critics Association Award and a Young Artist Award. Her career progressed with roles in the films Madea's Family Reunion (2006), The Longshots (2008), and Shrink (2009), as well as the television films The Wool Cap (2004) and Jump In! (2007), earning a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for her performance in The Wool Cap.
Lauren Keyana Palmer was born on August 26, 1993, in Harvey, Illinois. She grew up in a Christian household. Her parents, Sharon and Larry Palmer, who met in drama school, had both worked as professional actors before settling into full-time jobs. Her father works for a polyurethane company, and her mother is a high school teacher who works with autistic children. Palmer first sang in a church but earned exposure performing at a stage show at a Chicago tourist destination. In 2002, Palmer auditioned for a stage production of The Lion King at age nine.
In 2004, she gained her first film role in Barbershop 2: Back in Business, in which she played the niece of rapper and actress Queen Latifah. In 2005, Palmer signed a record deal with Atlantic Records. That same year, she was featured in the television film Knights of the South Bronx, as well as starring in the television series Second Time Around and ER. That same year, producer Ralph Farquhar helped Palmer book the starring role in a Disney Channel pilot titled Keke and Jamal alongside André Jamal Kinney, Vanessa Hudgens, Max Van Ville, and Earl Billings. The pilot was not picked up, and never aired.
In 2006, Palmer had her acting breakthrough starring in the film Akeelah and the Bee, playing the titular Akeelah, a bright 11-year-old who comes from a poor neighborhood and competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times wrote that Palmer "makes an appealing heroine". For the role, she won a Black Reel Award and an NAACP Image Award. She also had a supporting role in the 2006 film Madea's Family Reunion. The following year, Palmer appeared in the thriller Cleaner alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes. She portrayed a lead role in the television film Jump In! along with American actor Corbin Bleu. Palmer also starred in two television programs Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Just Jordan. Palmer released her debut album So Uncool on September 18, 2007. The album charted at number 86 on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Palmer released her debut studio album, So Uncool, in 2007 through Atlantic Records. She received recognition for portraying the titular character in the sitcom True Jackson, VP (2008–2011), for which she won four NAACP Image Awards and two BET Awards. She also voiced Aisha in the Nickelodeon revival of Winx Club (2011–2015), for which she received another NAACP Image Award nomination. Palmer has since continued her work in television, including the horror comedy series Scream Queens (2015–2016) and the slasher series Scream (2019), as well as films such as Rags (2012), Joyful Noise (2012), and Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), Animal (2014), and Hustlers (2019).
In 2008, Palmer began her starring role as the title character in Nickelodeon sitcom True Jackson, VP. Palmer also wrote and performed the theme song for the series. Palmer earned $20,000 per episode of True Jackson, VP, which made her the fourth-highest-paid child star on television. In July 2009, designer Jane Siskin created a Walmart fashion line inspired by True Jackson, VP, with all the designs being approved by Palmer. She also played the lead role in the 2008 film The Longshots, along with Ice Cube. True Jackson, VP ended in 2011. Also in 2011, Palmer debuted as the voice of Aisha in Nickelodeon's revival of Winx Club. She received an NAACP Image Award nomination for her voiceover work.
In 2012, Palmer starred alongside Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in the film Joyful Noise, released in January 2012. She produced and starred in Rags, a television musical film, as well as voiced Peaches in Ice Age: Continental Drift. In July 2012, Palmer released the single "You Got Me" featuring Kevin McCall. The video for the single was released on July 11, 2012. She released a self-titled mixtape Keke Palmer on October 1, 2012. In 2013, Palmer portrayed Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas in the TLC biopic, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, which aired in October on VH1.
Palmer starred in the horror film Animal, co-starring Elizabeth Gilles, Jeremy Sumpter, and Eve; it was released on June 17, 2014. She then recurred during the second season of Showtime's drama series Masters of Sex, portraying Coral, a nanny. That same year, Palmer hosted a daytime talk show on BET titled Just Keke. In doing so, she became the youngest talk show host in television history; the show itself has been regarded as "groundbreaking" and "refreshing". In September 2014, Palmer became the first African-American to star as the title character in the musical Cinderella on Broadway. She performed her final show during the closing night of the show's run on January 4, 2015. Later that year, Palmer announced that she had signed with Island Records.
Between September 2015 and December 2016, she starred as Zayday Williams in the horror comedy series Scream Queens, created by Ryan Murphy. In January 2016, Palmer starred as Marty Maraschino along with Vanessa Hudgens, Julianne Hough, and Aaron Tveit in the television special Grease: Live. Rolling Stone's Britany Spanos regarded Palmer's performance "a standout" and highlighted her "assertiveness, confidence and biting sense of humor." In June, Palmer released Waited to Exhale, an album she wrote during her time on True Jackson, VP that went unreleased due to label issues and her "anxiety-driven hesitance". On November 4, Palmer released her second extended play, titled Lauren, with a 17-minute short film of the same name being released exclusively on Billboard's website. In 2017, Palmer released her memoir, I Don’t Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice. That same year, she joined the drama series Berlin Station during its second season.
Following the release of her single "I Don't Belong to You" on October 25, 2015, Palmer explained: "I don't belong to anyone else but myself. I have to make my own decisions. Happiness is defined by me. My sexuality is defined by me. And that can change, and this can change, and I can make it what I want to make it because I'm the one who makes that choice. So that's what 'I Don't Belong to You' is saying. This song feels right. It feels right, and it's telling who I am. And it captures my identity."
In 2019, Palmer became co-host of daytime talk show Strahan, Sara and Keke alongside Sara Haines and Michael Strahan, for which she received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination in 2020. That same year, she released her third extended play, Virgo Tendencies, Pt. 1.
Palmer has struggled with anxiety and depression. In 2019, as part of the #YouKnowMe campaign, she shared via Twitter that she had had an abortion.
In April 2019, Palmer began guest co-hosting ABC's daytime talk show Strahan and Sara, sporadically filling in for co-host Michael Strahan and more regularly beginning in June during co-host Sara Haines' maternity leave. She joined the slasher television series Scream as a series regular in its third season, portraying a character named Kym, which premiered on July 8, 2019. On August 26, Palmer became a third permanent co-host of Strahan and Sara, which was then re-titled Strahan, Sara and Keke. In September, Palmer starred as a "lovestruck stripper" in the crime drama film Hustlers, directed by Lorene Scafaria. She sang the song "Giants" as part of a virtual group named True Damage, in which she voices a character named Senna, in the video game League of Legends for the 2019 World Championship. The song features singers Becky G and Soyeon as well as rappers Duckwrth and Thutmose as the other group members. In November, True Damage performed the song live during the opening ceremony of the finals.
Palmer was included in the Time's 100 Next list in November 2019, which "spotlights 100 rising stars who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, science, health and more." She is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2020, she marched in Hollywood, California, as part of the George Floyd protests. That same year, she addressed the movement during her opening monologue at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards.
Strahan, Sara and Keke was taken off the air in March 2020. Palmer later received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host alongside Haines and Strahan. That same year, she began starring in a web television comedy series titled Turnt Up with the Taylors, in which Palmer portrays all of the characters. She released an extended play titled Virgo Tendencies, Pt. 1 on August 28. On August 30, Palmer hosted the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, during which she also performed her song "Snack". More recently, she signed an overall deal with Entertainment One.
Palmer announced that she had been dealing with Polycystic ovary syndrome her entire life on December 1, 2020.