Starring on True Jackson, VP came with a few tough moments.
Like many child stars, the early days of Keke Palmer’s career weren’t all positive. Before becoming social media’s reigning meme it-girl, Palmer rose to fame on Nickelodeon’s 2008 series, True Jackson, VP. Over a decade later, the actor has recently spoken out about the challenges she faced while working with the network. As she detailed in a Nov. 16 cover story for The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen issue, there was one moment during her time with Nickelodeon that left her feeling “trapped.”
When she was 15 years old, Palmer (whose real name is Lauren Palmer) said Nickelodeon offered her and her family an all-expenses-paid vacation on their cruise. Outside of her work obligations on the cruise, Palmer said she found herself spending the majority of her downtime hiding in her room.
“I felt like I was walking around in a SpongeBob suit that I couldn’t take off,” Palmer told the magazine, adding that she fainted from anxiety during the trip. “I was trapped. I couldn’t leave my room without someone coming up to me calling me True Jackson. What you are, to everyone, is just a character… just part of their experience.”
Palmer starred as True Jackson in the self-titled show until it ended in 2011. She then moved on to more mature films, snagging roles in project’s like 2018’s Pimp, 2019’s Hustlers, and 2022’s thriller Nope. Though she’s managed the tricky transition from child star to movie star, Palmer said fans still struggle to see her as more than just the characters she plays.
She described an uncomfortable recent moment in Arizona with her boyfriend and his dad at a Philadelphia Eagles football game. “We ended up at a Dave & Buster's and somebody was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ Same reason as you, dude! Playing games and winning tickets. Where else do you expect me to do that?” Palmer said.
She also spoke about being compared to other child actors and how she’s continuing to build her personal identity as Lauren, separate from her Keke moniker. She dubs her everyday self as Walt Disney, while the publicly known image of Keke is akin to a Mickey Mouse-like character.
“I’ve taken those flamboyant and interesting aspects of myself and learned how to use them in a space that has become a career for me,” she said.
It’s good to see Palmer is finding a healthy work-life balance, because she deserves it.