Palmer, who was born in Harvey, Illinois, began singing in the church choir at age 5. After her family moved to Los Angeles, the “Bossy” singer quickly found herself working as an actress, landing her first acting role in 2004’s Barbershop 2: Back in Business.
She rose to fame after starring on her own Nickelodeon series, True Jackson, VP, from 2008 to 2011. Three years after wrapping the Nickelodeon show, Palmer made history in more ways than one. She landed her own BET talk show and was also the first Black actress to play Cinderella on Broadway.
“I waited my entire life for a moment like that,” she told Essence in 2016 of being Cinderella. “I hate saying it was a huge deal that I was the first African American to ever be a part of this musical. It’s great, but I also want people to feel like it’s crazy, because it shouldn’t always be this way. But I loved that my little brother and sister got to watch this show and actually see a diverse world just like the one around them.”
As Palmer continued to grow as an actress with roles on Scream Queens, Star and more, she chose to become her own boss and launched her own record label. The musician had already been with three labels by her mid-20s, but with Big Boss Entertainment, she could call her own shots.
“It’s about empowering myself,” the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards host told Billboard in February 2018. “I want to empower my peers, so they also feel they’re not a part of the old way of doing things and be a part of the big bosses. Big Boss is about me helping expand and using what I know. I’m not always going to be Keke Palmer the entertainer, but it’s meant for me to get outside and move to the forefront. That’s what I’m building towards.”
When it comes to her next move, Palmer has a few ideas, including another challenging job: Comedy. “I have dreams of doing standup one day,” Palmer told Us Weekly exclusively in February 2020. “Yikes!”
Scroll down to see the evolution of Palmer’s career.