Not everyone will be an “It girl” in their lifetime. Some people are just born with that magic; we could even argue that being an it girl is a calling. Keke Palmer is undoubtedly an industry it girl and has been since she rose to fame at the age of 12.
We’ve watched the Nope star shine in every opportunity and avenue presented and rise to the occasion of excellence over and over again. We’re expecting the same success in her upcoming role, her biggest one yet: mother. Palmer announced that she is pregnant with her first child with boyfriend Darius Jackson in December.
Before giving birth to her son sometime this spring, Keke is still putting work in as the girl boss she is. Most recently, the actress and TV personality became the star of a new PepsiCo brand commercial, which also features 76ers star Tyrese Maxey, promoting STARRY Soda. The beverage is a lemon-lime soda that is now the official soft drink of the NBA.
“When you see this commercial, it’s bringing back that old-school flavor and fun that you would get with commercials and personality,” Palmer tells ESSENCE. “I think the drink has character, and so does the commercial.”
Palmer is one of many greats to star in a PepsiCo ad. She follows in the footsteps of icons like Beyoncé, Michael Jackson and Britney Spears. We asked how she feels about filling those big shoes, launching the new Starry drink, and knowing her son will see it one day.
“Well, first of all, I don’t think there’s anything better than introducing something new. Literally, he was with me while filming it,” Palmer responds. “I think Pepsi is an amazing brand [that] has been around for years. I grew up knowing of its existence. So the fact that I’m getting the opportunity to introduce another one of their soft drinks is just huge.”
Since we were on the topic of beverages, it was only right that we segued into food. As a mom-to-be, we wanted to know what staple dish Palmer hopes to introduce to her son. She’s excited to see how her little one will respond when tasting lemon for the first time, or to trying something salty, spicy, and sweet. However, she’s most excited about him trying her dad’s soul food.
“Ain’t nothing like home cooked soul food and my dad makes the best,” she says. “I’m very excited for him to get into those Chicago, Southern city meals. You know—little catfish, side of spaghetti. I just want to see what he’s gonna think of all that. I don’t want him to have too bougie of a palate, child. No bougie palates over here,” she jokes.
Beyond opening her son’s palate to a range of foods, Palmer also wants to instill good values in him. Honesty and kindness are the top two values she hopes her unborn child lives by.
“You can be both. You could tell someone the truth and even if it’s not gonna be something that makes them happy, you could be kind about it,” she says. “And [also] the importance of always being polite. Like, ‘Thank you ma’am. Hello, sir.’ I just think there’s nothing better than someone showing respect.”
“I think what also excites me in general about being a parent is being able to hopefully set a little human up for success,” Palmer adds.
Setting little Black boys up for success is imperative in a society where Black men are more likely to commit suicide than Black women, more likely to be imprisoned, and have the lowest life expectancy of all major ethnic-sex populations in America. When we asked Palmer how she will help her son navigate that and take pride in being a Black man, she said she plans to show him all the things she loves about being Black.
“There’s a time and place to bring up some of the more harrowing or unfortunate or difficult things in history. It’s important to know those things. I definitely am not ashamed of that because it gives us information for the future and how to operate,” she says. “Growing up, while I learned about the hardships that Black people experienced in America, I also had every reason to be proud of being Black because my [parents] coupled that with all these things that identify us in the strongest, resilient, coolest, funnest, smartest ways. So, to me, the biggest thing is to show [him] all my favorite movies, my favorite things about our culture, food, music, our history. Just all the things that my family has done and how we’ve evolved over time.”
She continues, “And just the spirit of who we are in our Black American culture. That excites me. I just really can’t wait to show him all of that so he has the same pride that I have.”
Before parting ways with the star, we had to find out what she will potentially miss most about her child-free life. Moms missing their pre-child life and grieving their identity before kids is something we don’t talk about enough.
“That’s hard because you don’t know what you don’t know. I guess what could be different is just that I’m not the only person that I have to think about. But, I don’t know how I would grieve that. Because if I’m being quite honest with you, I’m tired of thinking about only me. I’ve been all about me since I was nine years old,” she says.
“I’m very excited at the thought of, ‘finally, it’s not about Keke,'” she adds. “I love the idea that I don’t have to be thinking about me, to just be focused on somebody else for a lot of time. I’m so ready for him to take over my life.”