Keke Palmer opens about being a child star: You get 'into being a people-pleaser'

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Alexander Kacala
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Keke Palmer has been performing since she was just 11 years old. Known for her roles in films like "Akeelah and the Bee" and Nickelodeon sitcoms like "True Jackson, VP," the 27-year-old actor, singer and media personality is now reflecting on her experience growing up in the spotlight.

"At a young age, as a child (in the) entertainer world, your emotions are always the last thing that people care about," she says on a new episode of InStyle magazine's podcast "Ladies First with Laura Brown." "I think you get really quickly into being a people-pleaser and trying to be everything that everybody wants you to be. And so I think in a lot of that, you end up being misunderstood."

The "Hustlers" star also says she struggled with accepting her imperfections in terms of her looks.

"When I was at the ages of like 13, 14, 15, it was like, you could never see me without makeup," she says. "I was not playing around. But as I got older, I think I really just kind of got tired. It was tiring to me to keep on hiding my skin and to keep on doing that whole thing."

Palmer's mom, Sharon Palmer, told TODAY's Sheinelle Jones that her daughter's childhood was far from the luxuries of Hollywood, and that she pushed her child into stardom at a young age so she would have a way out.

“We're from Chicago, which is blue-collar — we didn't come from money,” Sharon said. “We lived in a very low-income area, but we also came from a Christian family.

“I did it so she could go to college,” she later shared. “I never expected any of this. I didn't do it for money or fame. It was college. I wanted her to go to college. I wanted my kids to go to college. And I wanted them to have a better life.”

Palmer made her film debut in 2004 when she played Queen Latifah's niece in "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," but once she signed to Atlantic Records a year later, she says discovered what she really wanted to do.

"People still ain't going to understand you, but it's not really those people's faults for not understanding you, it's your fault for caring."

"I think I've always been able to be more objective about acting and all these other things because they kind of just came to me without me knowing. But music was something that at a young age I believed in myself in and throughout the industry got very challenged (doing)," she said. "I had to really come to that understanding that success is what you make it and what you design it to be. Everybody is not Beyoncé, and that's alright. That doesn't mean that you're not amazing because if you're not Beyoncé, maybe you are Norah Jones."

Whether acting or singing, Palmer's experiences with pressure at a young age have informed the way she approaches her work today, which includes positioning her wants or needs first.

#BlogHer19 Creators Summit (Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images)
#BlogHer19 Creators Summit (Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images)

"I've fought a lot of that most of my adult life, and I'm still new into my adult life," she said. "And I think that's something that I work toward every day is to not worry about people not understanding me, because I understand myself.

Related: The 27-year-old is the first Black woman to host the VMAs solo.

"Sometimes it's much easier because I don't have to please anybody but myself," she added. "I find so much ease with being alone because I actually like me. That's what's so crazy, is because people assume if you want to always please people or be nice, it's because you have an issue or esteem problem with yourself. But actually, no. It's y'all not knowing what y'all want and projecting that on me that's giving me the stress. Me, on my own, in my own room, I'm happy as hell."

On what her advice is for others who may be struggling with loving themselves, she says, "People still ain't going to understand you, but it's not really those people's faults for not understanding you, it's your fault for caring."

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