2024 NAACP Image Awards: 7 Roles that Defined Keke Palmer's Career

The Emmy-winning “booked and busy” actress has dazzled audiences onscreen for the last two decades.

Keke Palmer’s true Hollywood story is unlike any other. The ultra-talented singer, actress, and host extraordinaire has worked in the entertainment business for most of her life, mainly staying booked and busy with her many TV and movie projects. The former Disney Channel and Nickelodeon star began her career acting alongside industry giants like Queen Latifah, Ice Cube, and Cedric the Entertainer in “Barbershop 2: Back in Business.” She’d soon follow up with more star-studded films, which eventually paved the way for her own teen comedy series and a talk show.

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It’s hard to believe that at only 30 years old, Palmer has nearly 100 acting credits to her name. The Emmy winner’s impressive onscreen skills range from gritty dramas and laugh-out-loud comedies to animated features and even horror, some of which contribute to her four 2024 NAACP Image Award nominations, including “Entertainer of the Year.” Let’s check out seven of Palmer’s career-defining roles ahead, from her child star days to her leading lady performances.

  • Akeelah / Akeelah and the Bee

    Palmer’s breakout moment arrived in 2006 in the heartwarming spelling bee drama “Akeelah and the Bee.” She starred as the titular character, who worked her way up the ranks to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee with help from her esteemed coach (Laurence Fishburne) and her strict widowed mother (Angela Bassett). The film marked Palmer’s second time working with Hollywood legends and kicked off her epic run, which is still in progress.

  • True Jackson / True Jackson, VP

    With Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson, VP,” Palmer became the first Black girl to have her own TV show on the network. The series centered on her teenage title character, who serendipitously became vice president of a fashion company after an eccentric CEO (Greg Proops) spotted her selling sandwiches. It lasted three seasons, proving that Black girls like Palmer had the chops and longevity to carry an entire show.

  • Chilli / CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story

    Palmer stepped into biopic territory as singer Chilli in VH1’s “CrazySexyCool,” where she, along with Drew Sidora and Lil Mama, portrayed the story of TLC’s iconic rise as one of the biggest girl groups in history. The actress previously said it was “extremely intimidating” to take on the role, but fully embraced the experience after getting the real-life Chilli’s stamp of approval.

  • Jackie / Brotherly Love

    Palmer put her dramatic acting skills to the test again in 2015’s “Brotherly Love.” She stars in the gritty drama as Jackie, a high schooler who narrates the hardships she and her brothers (played by Cory Hardrict and Eric D. Hill Jr.) endure to survive Philadelphia’s dangerous streets. Things get complicated, though, when Jackie unknowingly falls in love with one of her brother’s enemies.

  • Mercedes / Hustlers

    Before 2019’s “Hustlers,” Palmer had already proved herself a movie superstar. However, the R-rated flick, which follows a crew of New York City strippers who scheme to rob their wealthy Wall Street clients, reminded everyone of her star power. The actress joined the star-studded cast of Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Lizzo, Constance Wu, and Lili Reinhart.

  • Alice / Alice

    Palmer kicked off 2022 with yet another dramatic leading performance, starring as Alice in the eponymous revenge-seeking thriller. In the film, the actress plays an enslaved woman who escapes her secluded plantation in the South and winds up in the year 1973. There, she discovers freedom for the first time and uses it to rectify the lies that kept her in bondage for so long.

  • Emerald Haywood / Nope

    Palmer’s ambitious performance as one-half of a horse-wrangling sibling duo in Jordan Peele’s “Nope” is perhaps her most impressive leading role to date. In the UFO horror flick, the actress and her co-star, Daniel Kaluyya, discover strange occurrences in the skies above their California ranch and embark on a mission to capture evidence. What they uncover, though, is much more sinister.

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