Keke Palmer on Her New Short Story Collection and Hosting the Met Gala
Keke Palmer is the ultimate Renaissance woman. Most recently, the singer, writer, talk show host, and actor took on the role of Lady Miss Jacqueline. Bored between shoots on the set of her show Scream Queens in 2016, Palmer invented the character and began recording short skits that she posted on her Instagram. Lady Miss Jacqueline — deeply shady, deeply Southern — was a hit, and soon spawned a TikTok account, a popular Facebook show (in which Palmer plays an array of saucy characters), and now, a collection of short stories. Southern Belle Insults, out November 9th, takes Palmer’s stately alter ego to new heights. Over the course of five short stories, Palmer leads us through all manner of escapades, introduces us to new characters, and, above all, she enjoys the ride. To mark the book’s release, Palmer chatted with Interview about becoming a writer, hosting the Met Gala, and bingeing You.
JULIANA UKIOMOGBE: I read your short stories and I’m really excited to talk to you about them.
KEKE PALMER: Yes, let’s get into it! It’s so awesome that you had time to read them.
UKIOMOGBE: You published your first book back in 2017. How was the experience different this time around?
PALMER: One difference is that it’s fiction and not a self-help, coming-of-age vibe like I Don’t Belong To You was. This is 100% fiction — there are characters and there’s comedy. But in all my work, I always want to have something that you can take away. This is really a story, as opposed to commentary on my life.
UKIOMOGBE: What initially inspired you to create videos as Lady Miss Jacqueline? Were you looking for another creative outlet?
PALMER: Pretty much. I was working on Scream Queens at the time. We came up with Lady Miss Jacqueline as just a quick little sketch, about four lines or so. That was the beginning of me doing characters, but it was also the first time I’d piloted them on my account and allowed them to grow with my audience. Lady Miss was my first, and now I do it all the time.
UKIOMOGBE: And it’s so big now. You’ve got the Facebook show, and your TikTok is massive. People love it.
PALMER: Oh man, thank you so much. I appreciate it. I really do love creating. Sometimes it keeps me up at night. Social media has always been a really great outlet for me, especially coming up as a traditional talent and having to do things a certain way. Nowadays, that’s not necessarily true.
UKIOMOGBE: When did you begin writing the book? Was it a quarantine project?
PALMER: I started writing this well after quarantine. I was writing it around the same time as I was filming Nope. So I guess May of 2021. The story of Lady Miss, or I should say, Southern Belle Insults, has been playing in my head for a long time. The biggest thing was getting it down on the page, and that was the thing that Jasmine [Guillory, Keke’s co-author] helped me do the most. She was able to help me streamline the story. By the time I was on the third section, I was like, “Maybe Lady Miss needs to be the narrator because I miss her voice. She’s the voice of Southern Belle Insults. Let’s go in and have her narrate the whole thing and really give it that magical fairy tale vibe that I love.” That’s when it really started to come together for me.
UKIOMOGBE: I do love the tone of all the stories. It’s conversational and fun. You did an audiobook as well, right?
PALMER: Yeah, I completed the audiobook. I’m very excited about that.
UKIOMOGBE: Your EGOT is coming.
PALMER: Oh my gosh, girl yes! [Laughs] I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but I did the audiobook like a monologue. I just sat there and read. And when I need to go back, I go back to fix something. It was very much like doing a one-woman show.
UKIOMOGBE: A lot of your projects thus far seem very intentional. That care really comes through.
PALMER: It’s very important for me. You know, doing this as long as I’ve been doing it, I always want to continue expanding. At this second half of my career as an adult, as opposed to being a child, and having access to other outlets, I have been at the forefront of the decision-making process for my most recent projects. So to hear you say that means a lot, because it’s all coming straight from me. That’s something that I don’t take lightly.
UKIOMOGBE: As you get older, do you find it easier or harder to remain authentic?
PALMER: I think it becomes easier. Everybody kept telling me that when I turned 30, I really wasn’t going to give a shit about anything. I think they were right. The closer I get to 30, the more it becomes easier to just do me.
UKIOMOGBE: That’s why people love you. And you’re a true Virgo. You claim that proudly.
PALMER: C’mon Virgo, yes!
UKIOMOGBE: Virgos work hard, so what do you do to chill? What does the self-care routine look like?
PALMER: I love movies and bingeing shows. Lately, I’ve been watching Locke & Key, and that’s been keeping me going.
UKIOMOGBE: I just finished bingeing You.
PALMER: Oh my gosh. I finished that so quick, I hated myself. It was to the point where I’m like, “Can I have the next season now?”
UKIOMOGBE: I know! It ended on such a cliffhanger.
PALMER: But I love how it ended. It gave me something to feel interested in. This is the kind of show that can easily become dull and dry, but they won’t let it. They keep going somewhere new.
UKIOMOGBE: Have you seen any good movies lately?
PALMER: You know, I didn’t watch The Sopranos, but I did recently watch The Many Saints of Newark. It was pretty good. I enjoyed it.
UKIOMOGBE: Nice! You keep the watchlist stacked.
PALMER: Yes, girl! Always. You know what’s so funny? When I was doing Nope with Jordan Peele, he would always laugh at me for that and talk about how I was always really into all the new movies. He called me Red Box Girl because I’m always watching something.
UKIOMOGBE: Love that. And are you working on any new music? Because Virgo Tendences was a jam.
PALMER: Yes, I am working on the music. I’m really through the roof excited about presenting it—I genuinely cannot wait. It’s just taking time like it always does to get it all rolled out properly. But the album is done and I have a really cool visual component to it that I’m excited to share.
UKIOMOGBE: I can’t wait! Out of all the things you do—acting, singing, writing—is there one thing you like best?
PALMER: It’s always fun to just be yourself. When I get the opportunity to host, and just be Keke, I really enjoy that. But at the same time, I’m sometimes I walk into a room and I’m tired of being myself and want to be somebody else. You know? So it’s very much about the mix.
UKIOMOGBE: You were great at the Met Gala, by the way.
PALMER: I had so much fun. Those kinds of events are the most fun when I get to just hang out, and not think about the fact that we’re all at this dramatic party. Getting to break the ice, and cut through all the stuffiness that these industry events sometimes have, that makes it more enjoyable.
UKIOMOGBE: Authenticity is one of the main themes of the short story collection. What else do you hope that readers take away from it?
PALMER: The main thing I want to readers take away from the book is that each one of us is many different people. It’s okay to to focus on accomplishing your goals, or to jump into a new bag entirely and access a different part of yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to leave anything behind, but you have to be willing to expand. I think that’s the most exciting thing about me. Also, hopefully people will find it entertaining!