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For Keke Palmer, it’s OK to be ‘Uncool’

Keke Palmer is looking to inspire kids with her CD debut “So Uncool.” But being a positive role model is nothing new for this 14-year-old performer.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Keke Palmer is looking to inspire kids with her CD debut “So Uncool.” But being a positive role model is nothing new for this 14-year-old performer.

Keke first garnered national attention in last year’s “Akeelah and the Bee,” about an inner-city student and her triumphant rise in a national spelling bee. Not only was the movie critically acclaimed, but Keke was hailed for her portrayal, and won a best actress trophy at the NAACP Image Awards.

Keke has also starred with “High School Musical” actor Corbin Bleu in the Disney TV film “Jump In,” and had a role as a surly teen in Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Family Reunion.”

Keke gives listeners positive encouragement throughout the recently released “So Uncool,” like on the song “Hood Anthem,” where she knocks down the idea that those coming from a tough environment have to embrace negative stereotypes.

But while Keke may be delivering some sage advice, when it comes down to her personal life, she’s just the typical teen — one who recently celebrated her birthday with an ’80s-themed roller-skating party.

Keke sat down with The Associated Press to talk about dating, being a positive role model and her spelling skills.

AP: On “The Game Song,” you said, “I’m 13 I can have company” — how does that work?

Keke: That was fake (laughs) ... I can have company. If it’s a boy, I just have to be in the living room or something. My mom has no problem with that. My dad is just less into that than she is.

AP: How about boyfriends?

Keke: I can have friend boys — friend boys. I just can’t have boyfriends. But when I’m 16 — you better believe it.

AP: How do you stay so grounded?

Keke: My parents. I just always try to remember, you know, if I ever had a friend that was in the business and she just changed, I wouldn’t like it. So, I wanna do the same — just keep it regular. Always remember where I came from and who I am. Never forget that, and I’ll be all right.

AP: Why call the album “So Uncool”?

Keke: Being different — some people may think that you’re so uncool, but at the same time that makes you cool because you’re just being yourself. So the whole thing with the name is just (about) being you, being different. That describes me — so I named it “So Uncool.”

AP: What keeps you from trying to keep up with the crowd?

Keke: It (didn’t) really make me any difference of what people thought of me. I’m always going to be myself. I don’t like chasing after people. I was never a follower. I always kind of did my own thing and whatever happened, happened.

AP: When did you decide “Hey, I’m going to do an album?”

Keke: I never really necessarily said “I’m gonna do an album,” but I always thought that when I grew up I’d be a singer. And after I did “Akeelah and the Bee,” Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were doing a song on it and they were talking to the director saying that if I could sing, then it’d be good for me to try to go out and make an album ... So we thought about it for a while. The director told my mom what they said and she said, “Well maybe we should.”

AP: Were your parents worried about you doing material that was too adult, or that you thought was juvenile?

Keke: It’s never been a time when they’ve tried to make me too young. But we always have to try to explain it to the producers that we work with, that we want me to be in the middle. We don’t want to be too young. We don’t want to be too old and there were certain times that we got songs that were definitely too old for me because a lot of people think that I’m older. So it’s like “No, that definitely ain’t gone work.”

AP: How do you pick your roles? Are your parents really vocal about what roles you take?

Keke: It’s definitely my parents. They want me to be in good movies and good roles that can maybe speak and help children and maybe I can keep being a role model for them. We want good movies and good roles that are good for me and show me in a good light.

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Keke: I would have to say neither one of them are necessarily intimidating intimidating. But if I had to pick, I was more nervous meeting Laurence Fishburne because you know, he was Morpheus! So I was just like, “Whoa.” But you know, he was cool.

AP: So when you get interviewed, how often do people ask you to spell “prestidigitation”?

Keke: Every single day. Whenever they see me they always say “‘Akeelah and the Bee’ — could you spell ‘prestidigitation’?” I’m like, “P-r-e-s-t-i ...” Every time, I always have to do it.