Keke Palmer Felt 'Trapped' During Nickelodeon Years, Says 'Keke Palmer' Is a Caricature Persona

Keke Palmer is a dynamo any time she’s on-screen, whether it’s performing in a scripted project like Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” or as herself in interviews — but is any of it really her?

Not entirely. According to a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the former Nickelodeon star known as Lauren Palmer said she carefully created her “Keke Palmer” persona after the breakout success of “True Jackson, VP.”

Palmer starred in the hit children’s series until the week of her 18th birthday in 2011, and she’d become inescapably associated with the fictional character.

The pivotal experience of this phenomenon for the young actress came in 2009 when she was invited by the network to go on a seven-day cruise with her whole family. Their only stipulation was that she spend a few hours signing autographs.

Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that to the ship full of fans she was True Jackson, and not Keke Palmer. “I felt like I was walking around in a SpongeBob suit that I couldn’t take off,” she said.

“I was trapped. I couldn’t leave my room without someone coming up to me calling me ‘True Jackson,'” the actress continued. “What you are, to everyone, is just a character … just part of their experience.” She said that the tension of that experience culminated in her fainting from anxiety.

It would prove a turning point in how she navigated her career, with the actress vowing upon the end of “True Jackson, VP” that the only character she wanted people to associate her with from this point forward was one she created.

The over-the-top garrulous, engaging, unpredictable Keke Palmer that has delighted fans in public appearances for years now was carefully curated over the past two decades both to bolster her career, and protect Lauren from it.

“I’m a quirky artist, but I’m an artist, and it’s important for people to understand that Keke is just a part of who I am,” she told the outlet. “It’s been a winding road of trying to figure out how to do what I love but also exist outside of this caricature.”

When pressed to go into more detail about her personal life, like if she and her boyfriend cohabitate, Keke opted out of sharing those details. It’s as if Lauren’s life is not something “Keke” is free to discuss.

That’s not to say that the two are completely isolated identities. Lauran and Keke attempted to break it down a bit for her fans as part of the launch of her new KeyTV brand on YouTube.

In the video, they appear side by side, Lauren in a demure beige dress with a subdued look and presentation, whlie Keke hams it up next to her in a sequin jacket.

She described “Keke Palmer” as a brand she’d created two decades prior at the start of her career. In the short clip, she introduces the various sides of herself from actor to singer to writer and director.

Trying to clarify the distinction between Lauren and Keke, Palmer told THR that what it means is she’s “not like that all the time,” referring to Keke’s more outlandish personality traits.

“I’ve taken those flamboyant and interesting aspects of myself and learned how to use them in a space that has become a career for me,” she explained. “I’m Walt Disney. That’s Mickey Mouse.”

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