Skip to content

Former Child Star Says She Was Exposed to Hard Drugs on Set in New Interview

Keke Palmer says her strict parents helped her avoid the pitfalls of childhood fame.

As a child star, she played the lead roles in Akeelah and the Bee and True Jackson, VP. Today, Keke Palmer has made a successful transition to adult roles, with popular projects including the series Scream Queens and the movies Hustlers and Nope. She's also taken on a music career and some hosting gigs along the way, not to mention being made into an internet meme several times over.

But, while Palmer made it out of child stardom seemingly unscathed, she was exposed to some elements that have sent other young stars down a different path. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actor said that she was around hard drugs on set at an early age. Read on to find out more about Palmer's life as a child actor and how she managed to protect herself.

READ THIS NEXT: Former Child Star Says She Was Offered Money to Keep Quiet About On-Set Behavior.

Palmer came to fame as a child.

Keke Palmer at the 2005 Screen Actors Guild Awards
J. Vespa/WireImage via Getty Images

Palmer's breakout role was in 2006's Akeelah and the Bee, which she starred in when she was only 11. The star played a young girl who competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee alongside co-stars Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburn. A couple of years later, Palmer began leading her own Nickelodeon series, True Jackson, VP, about a teenager who becomes a fashion executive. When the show ended in 2011, Palmer was 18 years old and began taking on more adult roles. This year, she earned praise for her starring role in the sci-fi movie Nope, from filmmaker Jordan Peele.

She said she was around hard drugs on set.

Keke Palmer at the premiere of "Akeelah and the Bee" in 2006
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

According The Hollywood Reporter' new profile of Palmer, she was introduced to heroin on set when she was young, though she didn't specify which set. The 29-year-old explained that she has a friend who recently got out of rehab for use of the drug and also talked about her strict parents, who she later realized helped her navigate the tricky position of being a child and teen star.

"This child-star storyline … we done heard it, it's been beat over the head," she told THR. "But for the people who think that a normal childhood is overrated, nothing's overrated if you didn't have it."

She had to learn to deal with being famous.

Keke Palmer at the premiere of "Lightyear" in June 2022
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Palmer also spoke to THR about coming to terms with her fame and keeping certain parts of her personality private. A big moment of realization was when she took part in a Nickelodeon cruise when she was 15, and rather than getting to enjoy herself as Keke Palmer, she was recognized and expected to act like her character.

"I felt like I was walking around in a SpongeBob suit that I couldn't take off," she explained. "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."

For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

She's called child stardom "exploitative."

Keke Palmer at the BET Awards in June 2022
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Palmer has spoken out about her early career in the past, as well. In an August interview with The Guardian, she called being a child actor "really exploitative."

"I think performing in general is exploitative," Palmer said. "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 also talked about being misunderstood as a young entertainer in a 2021 interview on the podcast Ladies First with Laura Brown.

"At a young age, as a child [in the] entertainer world, your emotions are always the last thing that people care about," Palmer said. "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 in a lot of that, you end up being misunderstood … I've fought a lot of that most of my adult life, and I'm still new into my adult life. And I think that's something that I work towards every day is to not worry about people not understanding me, because I understand myself."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
Filed Under