Exclusive: Keke Palmer On Her 'Virgo Tendencies' & Elevating The Way She Views The Hustle
In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
This is my earliest memory of Keke Palmer when I was first introduced to her as Akeelah Anderson in Akeelah and the Bee. I interviewed her for Brotherly Love when I was the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Morehouse College's Maroon Tiger Newspaper for their press junket and then met her again in-person last year briefly on the dancefloor of the Good Morning America holiday party. If you would have told me that I would be interviewing her years later via Zoom about her evolution as a music artist, mental health and how much she loves getting massages, I wouldn't have believed you. I logged into Zoom two minutes earlier than our projected start time at 11:30am on Friday morning. When a screen name asked to be admitted into the video call, I knew exactly who it was.
Keke Palmer appeared on the Zoom in some gold huggie earrings, a few thin chains iced around her neck and a Gucci tee shirt. Her style choices coupled with her straight back braids definitely radiated chill Millennial Diva on a Friday morning vibes. "Girl, slicked back. Just keep it chill," she said after I complimented her braids.
After exchanging brief hellos and checking in with one another mentally, the "Marvelous" singer told me that she went into the pandemic ready and now she's in a more positive headspace. I had the pleasure of speaking with Keke herself about her recent Virgo Tendencies, Part I EP, her experience hosting this year's MTV Video Music Awards during quarantine and the importance of pouring into herself when it comes to her self-care routine as an artist, actress and all-around successful businesswoman.
Here's what I learned:
xoNecole: Talk to me about ‘Virgo Tendencies’, what the inspiration was behind it and how it felt to finally get it out.
Keke Palmer: I didn't even know the project was going to be called Virgo Tendencies. I didn't know there was gonna be a part one or a part two; I just knew I had the music, some new and some I started creating during the pandemic, and I had the space that I didn't have before. Sometimes I have so much stuff going on at once and I don't feel like I always have the energy to put into a full project. A lot of times I've just put out singles here and there, a little of that, a little of this. This time, I was like, "You know what, I have time to really focus and put a project together. I really want the project to be an escape." So much heaviness was going on and I feel like I wanted to tap into more lighthearted and spontaneous Virgo energy––or my Sagittarius moon, I don't know––and really give something fun. The music is all upbeat, we have some sketches on there, some comedy. If you watch my Instagram, you know I love some sketches, girl (laughs). It's really just something fun and that's Virgo Tendencies, Part I.
Part II, which isn't out yet, is a bit more of the R&B, reflective side and a little bit more melancholy. The whole point of [Part I] was to put myself mentally in space that was opposite from where I was. I wasn't able to go anywhere, I wasn't able to do anything and that can be melancholic so to balance that, let me take myself somewhere else musically and creatively.
How does part one of ‘Virgo Tendencies’ demonstrate your growth as an artist from when you first put out “Keep It Movin’” and “Bottoms Up” to the woman you are today?
I'm a little bit more free and I'm having more fun with it. My work isn't measured by anything more than if I had fun doing it and if I'm enjoying it. It's not based on anyone else's outside reactions or feelings, but it's based off of the fact that I like music, I'm creating it and it's enjoyable whereas sometimes when I was a kid, there was a lot of label pressure. Now I don't have a lot of that and I think that shows through the music in the way that I'm able to have more of a creative expression and be able to be more natural with how I give my music to my fans. It's more authentic to me.
What Virgo-like tendencies do you possess that go into your self-care and self-love routine?
It's the constant analyzing of myself and being able to really pay attention to the details of myself to know what it is I need. That is super Virgo of me and it's a bit controlling, but I like to be in control of myself and in control of my life, so it's OK. It's in every factor––whether it be how I feel about my body and my fitness, or how I feel about my mental health and if I need a break, if I need to add more of "this" in my life with my friends, or remove "that" because that's not making me feel good––that's my Virgo tendency that I feel really does help me, but then I have other Virgo tendencies that make me crazy, too (laughs).
"It's in every factor whether it be how I feel about my body and my fitness, or how I feel about my mental health and if I need a break, if I need to add more of 'this' in my life with my friends, or removing 'that' because that's not making me feel good."
You hosted the VMAs and you made history. From one Black woman to another, it was incredible to even witness that. What was the experience like and how did you balance it all with the other billions of things that you’re doing?
Oh my gosh, thank you so much girl! Hopefully, I'll be seeing you up there soon, too!
How did I balance it? Scheduling. My team––I really give the props all to my team because that's what really makes it happen. I have a really great team with my assistant, my mom, my management. All those people are who make Keke the brand happen from any facet. It's not me doing it on my own and that's really how I was able to get through it. They helped me and they made it happen. They made sure I was where I needed to be and made sure I was on time. It was crazy because none of us knew what to expect and there were so many moving pieces. The VMAs––I don't know how we pulled that off, but I'm so glad that we did it and it's over with.
How do you prioritize your music, acting, hosting and everything else that you’re doing while it’s going on? On top of your team, what’s your scheduling and planning process like?
Because a lot of these projects include, to some level, other people whether it's me launching a collection of merch, music, acting or whatever, they include other people and other things that have to be able to make them happen. A lot of times I have to be free-flowing and patient with how I want things to go. I really have to let God guide me about what's gonna come out when and where because sometimes stuff happens, it changes and I can't be sitting there unable to move. It was the same thing when the pandemic happened––I was supposed to be doing the movie that I'm filming now, but I couldn't do that so I ended up doing my EP. When I didn't do the movie, that ended up with me being able to do the VMAs. It's like so much stuff happens that you try to control, but a lot of times if you allow yourself to let go at times, it can bring yourself to something even better.
If you could give young Keke a piece of advice about prioritization and time management, what would you tell her?
It's OK to relax. It's OK to prioritize taking a break. It's OK to schedule that just as well as you schedule the business. In fact, it's important to. It's necessary. I think we live in a country that makes us feel like working like a slave is the way to live, and it's not. It's unfortunate that the "hustle hard" thing can be toxic, too, to our lives. It's OK to grind, but don't grind your wheels off, pooh. Work hard, but work smart. Be able to leave a space for you to still enjoy it to where you're not looking at the end and resenting something you care about. I would tell myself it's OK to have a personal life and it's OK to have just as much growth and evolution in your business as you do as a person.
When did you begin to understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in your personal and professional life?
About 25 [years-old] I'd say is when I really started to realize the importance. I fully started to implement those things before then and tried to find a balance, but I think I realized around 25 that it could be scheduled. Stop showing so much support to one area and none in the other. If there's a birthday or wedding that you need to get to, have it in the schedule. Leave it in the schedule and let it be there so the other people that you're working with know that day is off limits. Show respect and value to other things, you know?
"It's OK to grind, but don't grind your wheels off, pooh. Work hard, but work smart. Be able to leave a space for you to still enjoy it to where you're not looking at the end and resenting something you care about."
What are your mornings like?
I can depend on the different time of year and what I've got going on. Right now with this movie, I'm waking up at 7:30am, I go take a run around 8am for twenty minutes, then I come back, get ready and start my day. Maybe I have something immediately, maybe I'm going to production, an office, a fitting, whatever might be going on. Sometimes I might be chilling or I'll have specific times for my meals so I'll make sure that I'm fit for my character in this particular role. Then maybe I'll chill and I'll have a script that I have to read and respond to, or I'll have a contract that I have to look over and little things throughout the day like that. Other than that, it's pretty simple.
How do you like to wind down at night?
I like to wind down at night by watching a movie or TV. I love mindless shows and losing myself in a really crazy reality show like Life After Lockup on WeTV. I love stuff like that because it doesn't make me think too much. Sometimes when you're watching a strict scripted show, it can cause you to really have to pay attention and I want to be able to just chill and watch something that's just going to make me laugh.
What are your favorite types of self-care?
I love, love, love [getting] massages and love, love, love facials. I love getting my hair done, definitely braids and stuff like that. Not necessarily getting weave or getting a wig on––that's sometimes too much. I like getting my braids done, getting my ends clipped or putting a mask on my hair. What else do I love for self-care? Family time! I can fill up my spirit when I need to see my family.
What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care?
You're working backwards by doing that. You have to really implement self-care. There was a time in my life where - and I want to get back to it and I probably could because the pandemic came in––I really scheduled a massage. Nothing could come before it because it was me telling myself and creating a pattern in my mind that I come first. I made everything come after that. No matter what's going on, every Tuesday at whatever time, I have to get a massage and nothing can step in the way of that because it creates a statement to yourself that I am important, my feelings are important and what I want is important. If you don't place stuff in your life in which you tell yourself, what your life becomes is that everything is before you. Once you do that, you are no longer able to work at the level that you should because everything comes before you and you're not gonna be 100 percent if you're not there for you.
How do you find balance with friends and finding time to see or call them?
That one can be hard at times, but I started to do these things in my life where I have this vacation. One for my big birthday bash and a big bash for New Years. Me and my friends have been able to get together on those days and we look forward to them. We're working, we're grinding and sometimes we get to see each other a little more throughout the year, but we know for sure we're gonna see each other at the big party we're gonna have for New Years and the little vacation at our location.
What about your health? Do you like to cook or do you find yourself eating out more?
A few months ago, I was eating out a lot. Right before I got on the kick that I'm on now, I was eating out a lot. Now I'm not because I'm getting prepared for a film, but I also really wanted to do a reset and get myself more healthy. I've been cooking a lot during the pandemic so my confidence in my cooking skills have been up! I've been meal prepping and that's been really great. It's been awesome to be able to regulate and have a specific schedule.
"With doubt, once you get back to the seed of it, then you're able to kill it. Be a purveyor of your thoughts."
When you’re going through a bout of uncertainty or you’re feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I pray, I call my mom and I talk myself through it. I really believe that talking to yourself is OK because you're observant of your thoughts. When you hear yourself respond to something that makes you uncomfortable and you hear yourself in your head and you're like, "Thank God nobody's in here with me," don't judge yourself. Literally talk to yourself. When I hear a thought like that that makes me feel weird about something, I literally will talk myself through it and ask myself, "Why do you feel that way? What's that based off of?" As I slowly started to get there, I realized it's usually based on something shallow, surface, something I can easily fix, or something I've been confused by in some way. With doubt, once you get back to the seed of it, then you're able to kill it. Be a purveyor of your thoughts.
What does success mean to you? And what does happiness mean to you?
Happiness means being able to do what I love. Success to me is being able to create something bigger than myself and something that speaks to a message and ideology that can be carried on for years to come. When I think about me and what I want to do with my art and creativity, it's beyond just me, Keke Palmer. It's us.
For more of Keke Palmer, follow her on Instagram. Virgo Tendencies Pt. 1is out now and watch the "Dreamcatcher" music video on YouTube.
Featured Image by CR8 Agency/Vaughn Alvarez.
Take Our 2-Minute Wellness Quiz To Up Your Self-Care Game!
Black women are not a monolith. We all are deserving of healing and wholeness despite what we've been through, how much money we have in the bank, or what we look like. Most importantly, we are enough—even when we are not working, earning, or serving.
Welcome to Black Girl Whole, your space to find the wellness routine that aligns with you! This brand-new marketplace by xoNecole is a safe space for Black women to activate their healing, find the inspiration to rest, and receive reassurance that we are one small act away from finding our happiness.
Want to discover where you are on your wellness journey? You don't have to look far. In partnership with European Wax Center, we're bringing you a customized wellness quiz to help you up your wellness game. Answer our short series of questions to figure out which type of wellness lover you are, what you need to bring more balance into your life, and then go deeper by shopping products geared towards clearing your mind, healing your body, and soothing your spirit.
Ready to get whole? Take our quiz now!
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood. We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Westend61/Getty Images