Keke Palmer is the star of Jordan Peele’s latest movie “Nope,” alongside Daniel Kaluuya. While reviews have been praising Palmer’s performance — and rise as a movie star — another discussion has emerged on social media.
During the premiere weekend of “Nope," which debuted at number one, a debate started on Twitter about Hollywood and colorism, and how Palmer’s success compares to Zendaya’s.
Colorism is a form of discrimination that favors light skin over dark skin within the same race or ethnic group. While long a factor in Hollywood and casting decisions, colorism is now being addressed more openly by performers. Jodie Turner-Smith, Tatyana Ali, and Charithra Chandran of “Bridgerton” have spoken about their experiences with colorism.
Now, Palmer and Zendaya’s careers are being compared by social media users as another example of colorism in action within the world of entertainment.
“I’d like someone to do a deep-drive on the similarities and differences between Keke Palmer and Zendaya’s careers. This may be one of the clearest examples of how colorism plays out in Hollywood. They were both child-stars, but their mainstream popularity is very different,” one tweet read.
The conversation-starting tweet was in response to another tweet, which suggested it was “so interesting” that Palmer is being touted as a breakout star for “Nope” when she already has been a prominent entertainer, writing, “In my household Keke has been a star forever.”
Among her various accomplishments from 20 years in Hollywood, Palmer has 103 acting credits to her name, including the movie “Akeelah and the Bee;" has also released original music; became the youngest ever talk show host in 2014 at 22 with “Just Keke” on BET; was the first Black Cinderella on Broadway; and, of course, spawned a very popular meme.
Like Palmer, Zendaya got her start on the Disney Channel (Palmer was also on Nickelodeon), and has also received widespread acclaim as a “triple threat” performer, able to sing, dance and act. The 25-year-old appeared in the recent movies “Spider Man: Homecoming” and “Dune,” and in 2020, made history as the youngest woman, and the second Black woman, to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for “Euphoria.”
Palmer appeared to respond to the dialogue on Sunday — by essentially refusing to engage. The 28-year-old said, in a two-part tweet, she’s already made her mark on the industry, and cannot be compared.
While not quoting any tweets, Palmer referenced the subject by saying the entire debate — meant to point out colorism — was in itself “a great example of colorism.”
“A great example of colorism is to believe I can be compared to anyone,” Palmer said on Twitter. “I’m the youngest talk show host ever. The first Black woman to star in her own show on Nickelodeon, & the youngest & first Black Cinderella on Broadway. I’m an incomparable talent. Baby, THIS, is Keke Palmer.”
She continued, “I’ve been a leading lady since I was 11 years old. I have over 100+ credits, and currently starring in an original screenplay that’s the number one film at the box office #NOPE. I’ve had a blessed career thus far, I couldn’t ask for more but God continues to surprise me.”
Zendaya has addressed colorism previously — both how it has affected her career, and the ways she believes “that has to change.”
“As a Black woman, as a light-skinned Black woman, it’s important that I’m using my privilege, my platform to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community,” she said during a conversation with Bozoma Saint John at Beautycon in 2020, per Essence. “I am Hollywood’s, I guess you could say, acceptable version of a Black girl and that has to change.”
Zendaya has not responded to the ongoing dialogue.