One fact we won’t debate you on is that Keke Palmer is living her best life this year!
When the 26-year-old triple threat isn’t busy sharing co-hosting duties on Strahan, Sara and Michael, she’s cracking us up on social media and absolutely killing it on the big and small screens. Her most recent foray onto is Hustlers, a female-helmed stripper revenge drama that also stars Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Constance Wu, and Lizzo.
Palmer plays Mercedes, a crafty comedic vixen who is down with the #GirlGang of exotics dancers that hustle unwitting wealthy and greedy Wall Street clients out of their money.
With Hustlers hitting theaters on September 13, Palmer sat down with HelloBeautiful to chat about she prepared for the film, her New York Fashion Week debut, and how the Marvel Universe would be a good look for her.
Hello Beautiful: Tell me about Mercedes and what attracted you to the role?
Keke Palmer: What attracted me was that when I read some of her lines, I felt like she was a bit of a comic relief, and I really love and have been excited in the past few years with just my skits on my [social media], and just really going into comedy and embracing that aspect of myself. So, I was excited about the opportunity to showcase some of that, but then also just the entire group of women that I would be working with.
The director was great. This is a movie that’s very gag-worthy where it’s like, strippers and Jennifer Lopez! Yes! But then to meet her and to know that it’s a movie that had depth, that the production also put women in a very powerful position and that it was going to be very cinematic; I was like, okay, I really want to be a part of this!
HB: Your character didn’t have any pole routines, but I heard you still took some classes at Foxy Fitness in Manhattan. Did you train with Ashley Fox?
KP: I did go there but I feel bad that I don’t remember the girl’s name, but I did go there. I know that Foxy Fitness is where we went and did a training class. I just wanted to try it because so often people at say that it’s such a good workout and there’s also so much fun. So I was just like in my life. I’ve been trying to make time to go to one and when I did the movie I said, they’ve got somebody that’s doing classes. I might as well just go and so me and Lili [Reinhart] went and we had a blast, but it was not easy.
HB: Did you learn anything about the pole community that you didn’t know before?
KP: I think I really understood that pole dancing is a true art. Even if you are a stripper in the club, it doesn’t mean you know how to pole dance. That’s something that some girls never learn or never play with. So for me, I was just like, if you’re a pole answer you are dope!
HB: Okay, so you had a big moment at NYFW. You walked your first runway with cornrows and red lipstick. So what did that mean to you? What does that mean for the brown girls out there who might still be afraid to wear red lipstick or think that brains can’t be chic?
KP: We got to step into ourselves and own ourselves, which I think many of us do! This is the thing, people might have comments about your hair being this way or being that way, but I think the real point is that it’s about what you think. So if you’re not into something then cool, that’s your prerogative, but we can’t do it based off of what other people think about us. And I think the most beautiful thing about you is what is uniquely you. I did the big chop a couple of years ago and embracing my natural curls and finding ways to compliment them has been such an amazing and empowering journey for me because don’t nobody have this hair! This is my journey. Just don’t get to a place where you feel like what you have already isn’t good and like you have to fix it.
HB: So speaking of hair, I heard you know how to do hair like with sewins and what not!
KP: Yup, I do!
HB: Do you know how to braid too?
HB: With extensions?
KP: I do know how to braid with extensions, but I need to get better at tucking.
HB: So let’s say you’re going on vacation soon and don’t feel like dealing with your hair. What would be your go-to braided style?
KP: I would just do two braids.
HB: With hair added or just natural?
KP: I would do it with my natural hair, especially if I’m on vacation. Who the hell I’m tryna impress [laughs]? I’m on vacation love, two braids! And then if I had somebody do it, I might do individuals. Braids are always a perfect go-to.
HB: Absolutely and they last forever. Well not forever…
KP: But they do, somewhat!
HB: Going back to red lipstick, what’s your favorite red right now?
KP: I used to feel like yuck about dark colors, but not because of my complexion, because sometimes I felt like it aged me. I always try to keep a very youthful type of look, but I’ve learned different ways to rock red lips that have made me feel like, okay, this is a moment. This is how I pull the look together. I think really figuring out, you know, maybe I don’t go heavy on the eyeshadow, maybe I do something lighter, or maybe just an eyeliner is what I need and sometimes I’m not going to go too heavy on the contour but I’ll go heavier on the lip. It’s about finding different ways to enhance it. I think because a red lip, I don’t care what comes out you are. It’s always strong color in matching it and figure out what it looks good with.
HB: Back on a more serious note, how do you feel about black female visibility in the media right now?
I feel like It’s always changing. It’s always Ebbs and flows. I feel like sometimes it’s what you seek out. It depends on what you’re looking for; if you’re looking for something that’s commercial. We don’t always see that Black Panther moment [but] I want to be the kind of person that says I’m happy we’re getting a Harriet Tubman film. I’m happy that Viola Davis has her own hit show. I’m happy that Will Smith broke the record on Netflix. There are great people out there that are representing and getting major platforms to do it, but of course, at the end of the day, the more people that we can have of color, of more diversity, the better.
We can have men and women, young and old, Black and White. That way, more our stuff is going to look realistic to the world. If we only have certain people that are putting the movies together and putting the music together, putting the Fashion shows together, they’re not going to relate to as much to the other groups that are being ignored. I want more representation to be behind the scenes because if they’re behind the scenes then we’re going to see it in front.
HB: It’s funny you mentioned a Black Panther moment because I high-key want you to be part of the Marvel Universe. I want you to play Madam Slay or something!
KP: Oh my God! I would love to be a part of Marvel! And you know I’m with Disney now, girl! That would be a dream. I would love to do an action movie.
HB: What are some other types of roles are you looking forward to?
KP: I’m definitely in the bag of comedies and action. I’m loving to do that kind of thing or a coming of age story, like to put you in the mind of an everyday movie. So often, especially as black people, we either do something very dramatic or it’s just funny, but it’s never like Bridget Jones’s Diary or the kind of movies that Jennifer Aniston. We don’t often get those kinds of things from the perspective of, I’m just a Black woman living life and that’s why I’m excited for Issa Rae’s new movie, The Photograph because I think it’s going to be just a day in the life.
You know, I want to see Black women, just everyday Black women. I also really love Taraji’s What Women Want. I love those kinds of movies where it’s just like this just a story, that’s just how life is, it’s just a vibe. That’s something I’m very interested in giving especially to the millennial, young adult a generation.
HB: You mentioned the sketches you do online earlier, and I’ve seen some on Instagram. It’s so unique because you only have a certain amount of time to convey your message so talk about why you’ve opened yourself to that lane as an actress?
KP: [Social Media] is a very powerful tool because in this industry, especially knowing how it is with traditional talent, it’s kind of hard because there’s only so much you can do when it comes to people seeing you for a role. And, wanting to produce things takes a lot of time. When I produced Pimp, that took us almost six years.
So social media is something that you can do quick and fast and you can create an avenue for yourself that maybe the industry doesn’t see for you and you can actually accumulate data and proof that it works and you can learn your audience and then it becomes easier when you go to knock down the door.
As a creative rebel was just saying that this is what I want to do. I had no platform to really do it other than this one so I’m going to do it. And at first, people didn’t know what was going on when I did, “The gag is!” or when I did, “Southern Belles.” It was something that they didn’t expect but it’s just me expressing myself, following my audience and just really trying to entertain and also have fun doing it.