A weird thing happened over the weekend following the box office success of Nope. Keke Palmer is one of the film’s stars and has received outstanding notices for her performance. If you’ve been following Keke Palmer’s career, you’d know that this isn’t the first time her work has been praised, nor is it the first time she has starred in a number one movie. Despite this, the actress began getting side-by-side treatment with Zendaya on social media, which sparked a heated debate about colorism in Hollywood. Keke Palmer has seen the social media chatter and is responding by taking the high road and letting the uninformed know about everything she has accomplished.
Keke took to Twitter to respond to the debate by saying, “A great example of colorism 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.” In another tweet, the actress continued, “I’ve been a leading lady since I was 11 years old. 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.” You can check out both tweets below!
It’s a shame that she even had to respond to this, but at least she did so gracefully. This all came about because she’s featured in Nope, and it is, so far, probably one of her biggest mainstream successes. Despite appearing in many movies and TV shows for years, someone on Twitter said that Keke deserved the same hype that Zendaya typically enjoys. Instead of viewing both women as true talents doing some great work in this industry, it served the purpose of engaging a debate about why one has ascended earlier than the other. To put things into more perspective, for those who don’t know what colorism is, it’s the “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.” In this case, if you’re using colorism as your argument, you’re essentially saying Zendaya has been more successful because she’s light-skinned, compared to Keke Palmer, who is dark-skinned.
It’s no surprise that women are being pitted against each other like some kind of competition because it happens a lot in the industry, but it happens VERY often with women of color. It’s this strange notion that there is only room for one Zendaya, Keke Palmer, or Halle Berry. Instead of focusing on their work, people begin to dissect why one might be more popular than the other. In this case, one user floated the theory that colorism is the exact reason why Zendaya has experienced more mainstream success than Keke. The two are around the same age, both started as child stars with a Disney background, but Zendaya has fewer credits than Keke overall. Even though she has done more work, the Twitter user seems to believe that colorism is why we have seen Zendaya significantly more in the mainstream press.
I’m in the camp where you can love both of these women and their work and not put them into some kind of competition. They’re both doing great work and are shining examples of what women of color can do in this industry. It’s encouraging to see some tweets that agree with this sentiment. It isn’t necessary. One can have their moment without it being overshadowed by senseless comparisons.