Keke Palmer Called Out The Colorism In Comparing Her To Zendaya
"I’m the youngest talk show host ever. The first Black woman to star in her own show on Nickelodeon, & the youngest & first Black Cinderella on broadway. I’m an incomparable talent."
Critics and social media alike are ablaze with praise for Keke Palmer and her performance in Nope, yet the actress had to take to Twitter over the weekend to call out people comparing her to Zendaya.
Palmer has been an established, award-winning actress for over two decades. Her history-making acting credits span TV, film and stage, alongside a music career that includes multiple charting albums and singles.
Her latest performance in Jordan Peele’s Nope is no exception. Deadline’s review of Nope said of Palmer’s performance, “it is Palmer who steals every scene she’s in and livens up this film in innumerable ways. She is sensational”.
It’s this performance that has Keke Palmer trending on Twitter, leading to a viral thread that compared Palmer to Zendaya. In their thread, Melinda Eg asserts that Palmer has been less successful in her career than Zendaya due to bias against her darker skin and stronger features (AKA colourism).
Eg wrote: “I’d like someone to do a deep-drive on the similarities and differences between Keke Palmer and Zendaya’s careers. This may be one of the clearest examples of how colorism plays out in Hollywood. They were both child-stars, but their mainstream popularity is very different.”
With thousands of interactions, the thread shifted online conversations from praising Palmer’s Nope performance to opinions on the comparison with Zendaya. Eventually, Palmer herself logged on to set the record straight. In her tweets, Palmer graciously affirmed how disingenuous, misogynistic, and colourist it is to see her success as an invitation to compare her career with others.
“A great example of colourism is to believe I can be compared to anyone. I’m the youngest talk show host ever. 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,” she wrote.
Palmer continued, “I’ve been a leading lady since I was 11. 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.”
As Palmer pointed out, even the assertion that her success is somehow lacking is untrue given her history in the industry. One Twitter user explained perfectly why even well-intentioned comparisons between Palmer and Zendaya are ultimately colorist:
“Keke Palmer was such a star in NOPE that there shouldn’t have been anyone trying to compare her to anyone else. Why the fuck are we talking about Zendaya at all? Y’all will dim a darkskin woman’s shine to go viral. Every time.”
None of this is to say that colourism isn’t an issue that has affected many darker-skinned actors of colour in Hollywood, especially Black women. However, if you’re looking to call out colorism in Hollywood, backhandedly praising darker-skinned actors for their current success by comparing them to light-skinned actors is probably not the best way to go.
Catch Keke Palmer’s incredible performance in Nope in cinemas next month.