Monday, January 30

Keke Palmer Weighs In On Zendaya Colorism Debate: ‘I’m An Incomparable Talent’

Keke Palmer would like to remind you she’s in a league of her own.

The “Nope” star responded to a recent viral Twitter thread that argued that the difference between Palmer’s “mainstream popularity” and Zendaya’s offers “one of the clearest examples of how colorism plays out in Hollywood.”

The debate rose amid critical praise of Palmer’s performance in Jordan Peele’s new sci-fi thriller, which topped the box office over the weekend. It’s been a banner summer for Palmer, who also recently lent her vocal talents to Disney’s “Lightyear” alongside Chris Evans.

“A great example of colorism is to believe I can be compared to anyone. I’m the youngest talk show host ever,” Palmer tweeted on Sunday. “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.”

“I’ve been a leading lady since I was 11 years old,” Palmer, now 28, continued. “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.”

“It’s wild we live in different worlds because in my household Keke been a star forever,” Ishmael wrote, citing the 2006 movie “Akeelah and the Bee,” in which a preteen Palmer played the title character. Palmer has since become a widely beloved and consistently booked performer, as well as a reliable source of viral memes thanks to her endlessly charming interviews and press appearances.

Still, a debate arose about the perceived difference between Palmer and Zendaya’s “mainstream popularity,” as they both appeared in popular Nickelodeon shows when younger ― “True Jackson, VP” and “Shake It Up,” respectively.

Zendaya is now one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood, following her roles in blockbuster films like “Dune” and Marvel’s “Spider-Man” franchise, in addition to her work on HBO’s “Euphoria,” which garnered her an Emmy Award and multiple history-making nominations this year.

The conversation drew a variety of responses across social media. Some people resent the comparison between the performers, while others argue that Zendaya’s privilege of her as a light-skinned Black woman shouldn’t be ignored.

“I don’t know why y’all are obsessed with comparing people. They both worked their asses off to get to where they are,” one person wrote. “Yes Keke deserves more but shit wasn’t just handed to Zendaya either. Comparing their careers downplays Keke’s success and downplays Zendaya’s talent.”

“Keke’s net worth is $7 million and Zendaya’s is $20 million,” a third person wrote. “Keke has been a mainstream success since her career began and has put in substantially more work. She should be one of the HIGHEST paid entertainers in the game. So yes it’s colorism.”

Zendaya and Keke Palmer pictured together at 2016’s Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards.

Imeh Akpanudosen via Getty Images

Over the years, both Palmer and Zendaya have candidly reflected on how colorism has affected their careers.

In 2018, the “Euphoria” star described herself as Hollywood’s “acceptable version of a Black girl,” while calling for more representation in an industry that has historically upheld Eurocentic beauty standards.

“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 at the time.

“We’re vastly too beautiful and too interesting for me to just be the only representation of that,” she added. “What I’m saying, it’s about creating those opportunities, sometimes. You have to create those paths. And that’s with anything, Hollywood, art, whatever.”

Palmer, meanwhile, remarked in an interview with TheGrio that same year about how Hollywood has “highlighted some barriers when it comes to colorism.”

“Growing up, I didn’t see people with my complexion at the forefront or being shown as beautiful. I only saw one representation of beauty and that it was of a black person with a lighter complexion,” Palmer told TheGrio.

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