My Roommate’s All-Exclusive Experience by Mia Chin

On February 2, Keke Palmer, beloved actress, singer, and song writer, made a guest appearance at Aaron Davis Hall. It was the first signing of her new book, I Don’t Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice. This young impassioned artist is most known for her role in Akeelah and the Bee, and more recently “Grease: Live!” and “Scream Queens.”

In front of a group of exhilarated fans, Palmer held a discussion about the topics addressed in her book. These included identity, pressure, self-worth, love, sexuality, heartbreak, and family. Amid that bustling group was my roommate Nailah Garard, a freshman studying international relations and anthropology.

Nailah has always admired Keke Palmer for her representation of young black females in popular culture. Growing up, Garard was a member of World of Money, an organization focused on imparting financial literacy on black youth. The founder of the program, Sabrina Lamb, inspired Garard to realize her full potential in spite of racial prejudices and social boundaries. Coincidentally, Lamb was the host for Palmer’s book signing. Garard had the opportunity of meeting Palmer one-on-one before her Q&A. Nailah assumed she knew everything there was to know about Keke. Yet, the person behind the stardom surprised her. “There are so many facets to her personality. Keke refuses to be defined by social construction,” exclaims Garard, as she discussed her experience.

How did it feel to hear Keke Palmer speak?

“It felt empowering. She’s so humble and down to earth. Her ambition and achievement is truly inspiring. She makes me feel like I can do the same. She inspires me to be honest to who I am. Confidence just exudes off of her, you can tell that she went through a lot and finally came to terms to love herself. She broke down twice while speaking, which really shows just how passionate she is. Everything she said was eloquent and insightful. It was stuff that I needed to hear.”

What was it like to meet Keke Palmer after the interview?

“I was so nervous. I was in disbelief. I went up to her and gave her a gift. I wanted to tell her that she was an inspiration to me, but the words escaped me. She complimented my hair and told me how beautiful I was. It was so incredibly humbling. We actually took a picture together and she said “Don’t be afraid get close!” I couldn’t believe it, I was cheek to cheek with Keke Palmer.”

What was the most important lesson that you learned from Keke?

“You’re entitled to sadness and anger. We are always so pressured to be happy all the time, but that’s not healthy. When she was depressed she felt that no one really understood her. She found the strength within herself to quite the noise around her and listen to her own heart. You can’t be restricted; you have to pursue your heart’s desires. It might spark an interest and encourage you to do something greater. Explore yourself and explore the world around you and eventually you’ll find yourself.”

Palmer has recently released a song “I Don’t Belong to You” that runs in step with the themes of her novel. Keke may be the youngest author to be on the New York Times Best Sellers list if book sales rise. She continues to inspire young women around the country to cultivate an identity independent of social stigma.

I remember Nailah blundering into our room later that night after her meeting Keke. I will never forget that expression of sheer elation that illuminated her smile. Each day I am reminded of the importance of cultural representation and a tacit understanding of what it means to be human, regardless of social status.

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