Keke Palmer Opens Up About Feeling ‘Trapped’ In Character During the Height of Her Success While Starring In ‘True Jackson, VP’

Keke Palmer always had that star quality as a child actor, but when she landed her own show on Nickelodeon, her notoriety skyrocketed.

Palmer’s most tried-and-true fans were likely introduced to her when she starred in the Disney Channel movie “Jump In” in 2007, although she had been performing since early on in her childhood. She’d even landed her first role in a major film with the 2004 release of “Barbershop 2: Back in Business.”

Keke Palmer’s Instagram (@keke)

The Chicago native’s career trajectory hit a sharp incline when she landed her own show, “True Jackson, VP.” The hit Nickelodeon series ran from 2008 to 2011. In a feature story for Variety, Palmer said the success of the show was a huge undertaking for a child to grasp.

In the interview, she recalled the network extending an all-expense paid trip on the Nickelodeon cruise to her. In exchange, all she had to do was sign some autographs, take a few photos, and then the rest of the trip could be spent however she and her family chose. However, things did not go that way. Instead, Palmer was inundated by fans who could not believe the actress was not confined to the parameters of television.

“I felt like I was walking around in a SpongeBob suit that I couldn’t take off,” she told the outlet. “I was trapped. I couldn’t leave my room without someone coming up to me calling me True Jackson. What you are, to everyone, is just a character…just part of their experience,” she added.

Palmer, now 29, has a better understanding of how much being a child star impacted her in her adolescence. Last April, she told PEOPLE that as a child actor, the last thing anyone is concerned about is how you feel.

“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 a lot of that, you end up being misunderstood. When you’re not always being agreeable, you’re a brat,” explained the “Lightyear” actress.

With over a decade in the industry and several notable projects on her résumé, Palmer knows a thing or two about the pitfalls of having adult-level success before you really have time to formulate who you are as a person.

“It’s always been a bit of a thing for me because people have had all these expectations of who they want me to be at a very young age: how they want me to act and how they want me to respond. I’ve fought a lot of that most of my adult life, and I’m still new into my adult life,” she told the outlet.

In a previous interview with The Guardian, the “Nope” star went so far as to label child star experiences in the industry as exploitative. “I think performing, in general, is exploitative. I think that being a child entertainer is really exploitative because you don’t even know your limits yourself. And a lot of what you later envision as a memory is actually trauma,” she told them this past August.

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