That's right, the young Nickelodeon legend-turned-film star (who can forget Akeelah and the Bee?) is all grown up, and despite having several movie and TV irons in the fire, still has time to sit down and chat with her equally fabulous peers as the youngest television host in talk show history. We don't know how she does it — so we decided to ask. Ahead, Palmer on her new gig, her affinity for Rihanna, and that smokin' hot Alon Livné dress.
Congrats on the launch of your new talk show, Just Keke, on BET! What type of content are you going to cover?
"Everything. Fashion, love, relationships."
We saw that you were able to see your celeb crush Michael Ealy on your premier episode! How was that experience like for you?
"It was really shocking because I was not expecting him to come out. I was very nervous. It was embarrassing, but it was also kind of exciting because he saw how much I liked him. I was just thankful that he took the time out to do something like that for me — it was really cool."
What type of "fresh perspective" do you hope to bring to the world of talk show television?
"The voice of my generation. The youth. I said in my first episode that I feel like people were giving us [the youth] a lot of slack for not having much to say, or for not saying anything with substance. But, the truth was we just didn't have a platform. They weren't really listening to what we had to say, and when they did, they would just sort of write it off — maybe somebody didn't use the best grammar, or maybe somebody was dressing differently. I feel like they aren't seeing the beauty in these differences, but that's what my show is all about. So, that's what my show is all about. To showcase the truth in our generation."
What talk show hosts do you admire and why?
"I definitely admire Oprah Winfrey because she changed the whole game. She was so real, so relatable, and so passionate — so everything. She inspired me to have the idea to think that I could do something like this. Whether I was able to pinpoint it or not, she really put a seed in my subconscious to believe it was possible, just by being herself."
If you could have anyone in your chair to interview, who would it be and why?
"Rihanna, because she's so genuinely real, yet I feel like a lot of times people try to judge her. But, the truth is that Rihanna is an individual. I would just love to have her on the show to talk to her about how free she must feel by just being herself despite what a lot of people sometimes say about her. That's definitely a level of peace that I would like to acquire at some point."
Do you feel your Midwestern upbringing aided you in your career at all?
"Yes. I think that my foundation definitely made me who I am today. Even though I grew up in the industry, I always kind of had that simple mindset and Midwestern-type of vibe, so I think that's why I was able to be so appreciate of the things that I had because I remember where I came from when I didn't have much. Those were some of the happiest times of my life. Money definitely doesn't bring you happiness, that's something you bring on yourself. I am very grateful for everything because I know a lot of people don't get these types of opportunities."
You've proven that you're both an accomplished actress and singer. Do you have plans to continue to pursue both, or are you gravitating towards one more than the other?
"No, I definitely want to do everything! I have to make time, but it's difficult. I mean, even now I wish I was going into the studio every weekend, but I can't because my voice is shot. I'm a workaholic, I love to work. Work is where I am most happy."
"A lot of times it is because I have a personal relationship with the people. Like with Saving Our Daughters; I've known the creator Curtis for some time. He started it because his daughter was dying of cancer. A lot of times she would have to wear a wig, so she experienced a lot of bullying because she didn't have a lot of hair. I knew that little girl, so to be a part of that organization in memory of her was a very personal thing for me. And, a lot of times, even if I don't know the people, I can respond to just hearing about the organization, so I'll just jump on the bandwagon."
How was it working with designer Jane Siskin on the Walmart fashion line inspired by True Jackson, VP? Do you have any upcoming plans to pursue fashion?
"Jane Siskin is great, so to have her on board to the line was amazing. She had the style right down — which had a quirky, True Jackson, VP flair — but it also had a bit of a business vibe to it, which I thought was really cute. As for any plans, I would love to, though I can't say there's anything specific that I want to do right now. Fashion is definitely becoming a big part of my career as I get older, so it would be cool to do something."
Since you have an eye for fashion, who is killing it on the red carpet right now?
"Rihanna always. I mean, honestly! Rihanna is just my girl all across the board."
Tell us about how you went about choosing that super-sexy Alon Livné. Dress! Do you think the pelvage trend is a new thing?
"I really think it's mainly the cut-outs. I think cut-outs are generally a big trend this summer. The reason why I chose that dress is because I can be a bit of a dare devil every now and then! I don't necessarily think anybody expected I would wear that. It was sexy but at the same time — even though it had the cut-outs — I thought it was still very classy in its own little way. Also, I had mesh in the top and hip bone sections. A lot of people didn't know because my stylist and I did a little trick to make it look like it was my skin. I thought it was a really fun dress and I enjoyed it. The only thing I didn't think about was how I was going to fit in it. That was probably my only issue."
Tell us about your role in the recently released thriller Animal.
"Yes, it came out June 17. I played the lead character, Alissa, who has a stylish twist to her. The movie is about these kids who go into the woods and they get hunted down by this animal. So, she's kind of like the silent leader. She's adventurous, strong, and smart."
Has the transition from young adult to adult roles been an organic process?
"I think it was organic, but I do think it was a slight reinvention because you are reinventing yourself from a child to an adult. I think it may be harder for entertainers to sometimes have that transition because people want to hold on and have you stay as that one person forever. But, as human beings we grow, so sometimes your brand changes — as well as everything in between."
What can we expect from your character, Coral, on Masters of Sex this season? Anything racy?
"It will definitely be racy, but not in the way people might think. I think people hear Masters of Sex and think racy in a sexual sense. But, my character goes into the civil rights movement — because that's what was happening at the time — so she definitely opens Libby's eyes (Dr. Masters' wife) to a lot of things. So, I'll just say that without giving away too much."