Loreal Palmer (Keke’s Sister!) Is In Her Main Character Era With New Memoir

Photo: Courtesy of Cover courtesy of Post Hill Press.
Content warning: This article contains details of depression, miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and the Black Maternal Health crisis.
Loreal Chanel "LC" Palmer never felt like the star of her own story.
“I wasn’t even a main character,” Palmer writes in the final chapter of her memoir, Keep Living. Instead, she often found herself occupying supporting roles in others’ lives, showing up for everyone else while forgetting about herself. “I was happy with that role, until I wasn’t.”
This experience is not unique to Palmer (the older sister of Keke Palmer, who recently announced her own book, Master of Me, arriving this November); it’s one that’s emblematic of the broader societal dynamics that shape the experiences of countless Black women and femmes. In a patriarchal society that heralds strength as a badge of honour — one that demands superhuman feats of resilience and self-sacrifice—Black women are disproportionately burdened with the expectation of shouldering the emotional labour of others while their own needs go unmet. The result is a pervasive sense of invisibility, of being heard but not truly listened to, and of having our humanity dismissed and invalidated.
Joining the cast of the first season of Claim to Fame — the US reality competition show in which contestants are all related to famous people but have to hide their identities while figuring everyone else out — marked a pivotal moment for Palmer. It was a chance to divest from these harmful dynamics and write a new script for herself. It was also a leap of faith into the unknown, and a declaration of her willingness to embrace change. At 32, faced with the unexpected dissolution of her marriage, the distress of multiple miscarriages, and a tumultuous journey of self-acceptance, Palmer found herself at a crossroads of reckoning, with an opportunity to shed expectations in order to redefine herself on her own terms.
In her memoir, as Palmer recalls her journey into the final six contestants —and eventually onto the winner’s throne — on Claim to Fame, it becomes clear her aspirations transcended mere competition. “I didn’t care about winning,” she writes. “I cared about saying I did something that was completely outside of my comfort zone. But now, I wanted to win. Why couldn’t I win?” Ultimately, joining the reality show was about reclaiming her sense of agency and envisioning a future where victory was not only attainable but inevitable. "Once I started to see myself winning, I started to see myself doing a lot of things," she recounts. She had embraced a newfound sense of self-assurance. 

I'm going to define myself for the first time in my life at 35 years. And sometimes the definition changes. But here we are. I have that power. It's my power to change that definition as many times as I would like to.

loreal palmer
But Palmer's path to self-discovery was not without its obstacles. From navigating the complexities of divorce to confronting the stigmatisation surrounding mental health, she faced numerous challenges along the way. The revelation of her then-husband Frank Wimberly III’s sexuality (Wimberly came out as gay during their marriage), her struggles with bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, and the throes of three miscarriages all tested her resolve. Despite the odds stacked against her, Palmer remained steadfast in her commitment to "keep living," drawing strength from the wisdom passed down by her grandmother. 
“My grandmother, Mildred, always said this, and it used to annoy the heck out of me,” Palmer admits to Refinery29 over Zoom. “But she was right when I looked back. As I was writing this book, I was going through those moments where I was, by definition, depressed. I had the inability to see a future. But guess what? I kept living.”
In addition to battling depression, she shares with me — as she also shares in her book — that she’s struggled with anxiety since childhood. By adulthood, she found out she had bipolar disorder — a diagnosis she initially found hard to accept, which comes as no surprise considering Black folx, especially Black women, are disproportionately less likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As with many matters regarding our health, our symptoms are either overlooked or misdiagnosed. “I think a large part of the problem is that these things were never identified as mental disorders [when I was younger],” she says. (Her grandmother, like many Black elders, described anxiety as being “scary.”)
Amidst the dissolution of her marriage and the grief of pregnancy loss, Palmer also found herself navigating debilitating panic attacks and bouts of hopelessness. Eventually, she confronted her mental health struggles and sought the support she needed. And in sharing her journey, Palmer sheds light on the importance of destigmatizing conversations around Black mental health and advocating for Black well-being.
I’m in awe of her candor given her acknowledged struggle with speaking up. When I ask her what inspired her, a self-proclaimed shy girl and private person, to share her story in such a public way, she tells me the decision to write her memoir was born out of a deep-seated need to find validation and understanding. Following Wimberly's disclosure of his sexual orientation to Palmer, they jointly agreed to part ways romantically while continuing to cohabit to raise their children. Meanwhile, Wimberly embarked on new romantic relationships. Despite this, the two are still the best of friends. Palmer says their friendship was difficult for people in their lives to wrap their minds around at first.
"I was trying to find so much literature on how to process this all," she says, recalling the loneliness and isolation she felt in the aftermath of her divorce. "I could not find anything." An illuminating conversation with a fellow author, along with encouragement from her mother, Sharon Palmer, influenced her decision to share her story—a reminder that her experiences were shared, that there were others like her who needed to hear her voice.
Yet, the decision to share her story came with its own set of fears and uncertainties. Palmer grappled with a fear of judgment, of being ostracized, and of being misunderstood by those around her. "Past me didn't make the best decisions," she says, acknowledging her own imperfections. And if those close to her were questioning her choices, what would the general public think? But as she embraced her truth and began to unapologetically share her story, Palmer found a sense of liberation. "It feels so good to just be like, 'You know what? This is me,'" an empowering statement in a world that doesn’t grant Black women permission to go against the grain, embrace our vulnerability, and own our stories.

It feels so good to just be like, 'You know what? This is me.'

loreal palmer
One of the most difficult stories for Palmer to own was her traumatic journey through pregnancy loss. Just before enduring her third miscarriage, Palmer sensed something was amiss inside her body. However, when she sought medical attention, reassurances were haphazardly given and her concerns were dismissed — only for reality to later unveil a harrowing truth: she’d have to let her baby go due to an incompetent cervix (a cervical cerclage would enable her to successfully carry the three beautiful children she has now, but it couldn’t save this one).
"Going through that and remembering that — I'm not going to lie — it definitely stirred up some anger,” she shares. “I tried so hard to get someone to believe me, and by the time they reluctantly did, it was too late to do anything.” We see this all too often within the medical system, and extensive research underscores the prevalence of racial bias in healthcare. For example, a noteworthy 2016 study unearthed troubling statistics, revealing that a significant portion of white medical students and residents harboured misconceptions regarding biological disparities between Black and white people. Consequently, they were prone to underestimating the pain experienced by Black patients.
For Palmer, navigating those biases alongside the aftermath of pregnancy loss was deeply emotional. Despite miscarriages being a common occurrence — impacting roughly one in five pregnancies — Palmer’s story highlights the stark reality of disproportionate risk faced by Black women and birthing people, who endure a 43% higher chance of miscarriage compared to their white counterparts. Within these statistics, the reminder that we’re subject to a healthcare system that perpetually fails us is painfully glaring. Beyond these statistics lies the profoundly personal ache of saying goodbye to a child you never got to welcome home. In her book, Palmer also describes feeling physically incompetent.
"Writing about it kind of gave me that chance to really process it," Palmer reflects. Describing the cathartic process of writing, she reveals how it compelled her to confront the grief she had tried to suppress for a long time. "I wrote that entire segment in tears … I don't think I let myself cry as much as I should have,” she says. Amidst this recollection, Palmer hopes readers will take away an important message from her ordeal: to advocate for their own health no matter what. "I was always so worried about inconveniencing the doctor, inconveniencing the nurse, inconveniencing my family with them taking me to the doctor. No. When it comes to your health, don't inconvenience yourself to avoid inconveniencing others."
The raw honesty of Palmer’s narrative is a powerful testament to the transformative power of perseverance in the face of life's uncertainties. This insight is something she’s woven into what she calls "tragic serenity,” a concept shared with her by one of her mentors, Dr. Shane Underwood, as she was going through her divorce. (She excitedly shares that she recently had the phrase tattooed onto her body, wryly promising me it’s not a cult, but a reminder to find solace amidst hardship, to accept that both good and bad things will always happen.) Within the idea of tragic serenity lies Palmer’s sage advice to those navigating similar challenges: "Stop placing these arbitrary timelines on where you should be!" Palmer's words are a welcome contradiction to society’s fixation on “linear” progress, as well as a powerful reminder of the importance of embracing the journey, however nonlinear it may be. It’s also a reminder of our authority to take detours, regardless of what society has to say about it.
She has Black feminist scholar Hortense Spillers to thank for that wisdom. 
“I can go to town talking about Hortense Spillers, but I won't do that,” she laughs before diving into how one of Spillers’ essays helped spark radical change within herself. Reflecting on Spillers' analysis of Black matriarchy juxtaposed against patriarchal norms, Palmer articulates the struggle of existing within a framework that historically marginalises Black women. She finds empowerment in Spillers' call to redefine societal constructs, embracing the agency to shape her own identity at the age of 35. Emphasizing the fluidity of self-definition, Palmer is finally taking centre stage and asserting her authority to redefine herself as many times as necessary.
“I think that is the era that I am currently in,” she declares (earlier in our conversation, she jokes that she’s in her villain era). “I'm going to define myself for the first time in my life at 35 years. And sometimes the definition changes. But here we are. I have that power. It's my power to change that definition as many times as I would like to.”
Stephanie Long is a seasoned journalist and certified health and wellness practitioner. Founder of holistic wellness and coaching company SRL Well-Being, she’s also the former Deputy Director of Enterprise for Unbothered, where she oversaw health, wellness, and spirituality content.
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