Keke Graces March 2020 Digital Cover of Harper’s Bazaar
October 4, 2018
Keke Palmer is in the back room of a nail studio deep in the Little Russia nook of Brighton Beach—a neighborhood so far into Brooklyn it’s practically teetering into the Atlantic—where the lobby is decorated in floral decals and the staff speak with thick Russian accents. A late-February chill has dropped outside, but inside, Palmer is dressed comfortably in just leggings and a graphic tee. Her faux locks are gathered into a high bun, leaving unobstructed the very-Keke mantra emblazoned across the front of her shirt: “It’s nice to be nice.” I, too, am wearing a graphic tee. Mine, somewhat strategically, has her face on it, accompanied by a very-Keke mantra: “Sorry to this man.” In a way, Palmer sold me the shirt. She began hyping the statement wear online last year—as any enterprising 26-year-old with the keys to her own merch store would do—one week after the world turned her into a meme.
Since jump-starting an acting career at the age of nine and later moving to Los Angeles with her family, Palmer has been a child star (Akeelah and the Bee), a theater star (she was Broadway’s first black Cinderella), a television star (Scream Queens), and an Internet star with her own YouTube comedy shows and round-the-clock social media presence. And as of last September, when she was on a promo tour for her ensemble role in Hustlers, Palmer was cusping on movie stardom too. It was during those press rounds that Vanity Fair strapped her to a lie detector on camera and asked her a series of lighthearted questions. A 10-second clip was lifted from that video and spread online like laughing gas. You’ve seen it, even if you don’t know where it came from or how you found it: Palmer asked to identify a photo of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, her head down, studying the photo, peering at the photo, before finally admitting, “I hate to say it, I hope I don’t sound ridiculous, I don’t know who this man is. I mean, he could be walking down the street, and I wouldn’t know a thing. Sorry to this man.”