The Meaning Behind Keke Palmer's Jaw-Dropping Beauty Evolution

Khalea Underwood

For someone who's been in the makeup chair for nearly her whole life, actress/singer Keke Palmer's beauty addiction started a little later than you might think. "I started getting into glam when I was on True Jackson, VP, when I was 16," Palmer tells R29. "I was into it, but I wasn't that good."

It turns out, Palmer really is like you and I when it comes to nailing down her cat-eye or bold lip. "I'm such a perfectionist...I'm always like 'Why can't I do it right?' I get frustrated," she explains. "It was a couple of trial and error years going back and forth with how to do my makeup and what looked good on me. I got really good once I did Broadway, when I was 21."

Naturally, the star has learned about what she likes and doesn't like throughout her career — and she's made every red carpet appearance and street style opp matter. "Fashion and beauty have become so fun to me," she reveals. "It's not so much about what people think I should look like, but more so about how I can express myself. From the moment someone sees me, they know I'm fun. They know I'm flirty. They know I'm exciting. They know I'm daring. They know I'm edgy. They know I'm sassy. I feel like I have stepped into my own."

Ahead, Palmer walks us through her daring, exciting, and beautiful beauty evolution.

February 2005

" Oooh, this was a custom-made outfit. I remember being like 'oh my God, I don't want to get anything on my dress!' As far as the makeup, I didn't really care too much. I was just happy that I had my hair in braids. It was a very easy hairdo. I probably thought it was cool that I got my makeup done, because I didn’t know too much about it. I was just happy being a kid."

Photo: J. Vespa/Getty Images.

November 2007

"I just remember thinking that this was the coolest movie premiere ever [ This Christmas], and I'm about to meet Columbus Short and Lauren London. At this point, I was a teenager. Before then, acting was just something I did. I didn't understand the perks of going to these things. I was just thrilled about meeting all the cool people in the movie, and I wanted to look cool, too.

"Blue isn't my favorite color — it's actually purple. I'm not sure why people put a lot of blue eyeshadow on me back then...but I didn't have much of a voice about my makeup and appearance back then. I was just developing my ideas."

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images.

March 2009

"That was one of my favorite looks ever from my childhood. I thought that dress was so cute, I thought my hair and makeup was on point. I was at a point where I knew how I wanted to look, and what really represented the Keke Palmer look."

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.

October 2o12

"This is an era where I was having fun! I was done with True Jackson, VP and my look didn't have to be so specific to whatever role I was doing. I had more time and freedom with my hair, because I was focusing on my music. I loved this blond hair.

"I kept my roots black so I didn't have to dye my hair. I've never bleached my hair before. I've gone blond with my real hair, but it wasn't bleached. The makeup was subtle, not doing too much. Nice, clean brow. Liner on the eyes, soft look. Very youthful."

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

August 2014

"I wanted to give them something cutesy with the hair. It was so typical for me to wear my hair hanging down. I wanted a refined look, but didn't want it to be typical. As a Black girl, I felt like only the long weaves could make me look classy. This was me being experimental on the carpet — trying something new. [Hairstylist] Cynthia Alvarez did a cool connector in the back and the makeup was pretty, soft, and fresh."

Photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images.

February 2015

"I loved this. This is when I was getting comfortable with trying different styles. As an actor, it's hard because your characters control so much of your look — you're a blank canvas. But at this point, I was doing Broadway and had an experience different version of myself in New York. I had so much fun. This is me walking into my own independence.

"As you can see, I was getting a little bit bolder around the eyes and lip. It's a stronger beat, more glam. I worked with Ursula Stephen on the hair. She's a short hair goddess! I've known her since I was like 16-years-old."

Photo: Brent N. Clarke/Getty Images.

August 2015

"This was another instance where I was trying to do something different, playing with the eyes. I was really fearless in what I wanted to try at this point. I'm wearing a nude here, but my favorite lip in my everyday life is kind of a rosy gloss. I'm normally a Buxom girl, or there's this Tarte color that's really great."

Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images.

February 2016

"I was really coming to give you Nubian goddess on this look. I felt really inspired by my culture and wanted to bring that to the carpet. I didn't want to do the classic Keke look with long hair. I wanted to show my attitude and my style. I put my hair in the twists and pinned them up. I wanted an elegant look for the carpet and to stay true to myself at the same time."

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images.

November 2016

"Short hair is a favorite of mine. But it's a wig this time, because I'm growing my hair back. I wanted short hair with my shorter mini dress. I was going for a Winona Ryder kind of feeling. And with the makeup, I went very glamorous. Daniel Chinchilla did it, and he's known for that very diva makeup. So I went boyish with the hair, and glam with the beat."

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

December 2016

"I had been dying to get braids, but I was doing Scream Queens so I could only rock my wigs if I wanted a change and I didn't really have enough hair for a weave or any of those things. By the time I had finished Scream Queens, I made up my mind that I wanted individual red braids, because I was really feeling my red wig.

"I felt like the braids added an edge to my outfits...a sense of character that my other hairstyles didn't give me. That's why I got into the mode of braids. Not because I was growing my hair out, but it gave more about me.

"This evolution is kind of full circle. I had this perception of what I thought Black girls should look like, but now I'm back to the place I was as a little girl, where everything is custom made."

Photo: Raymond Hall/GC Images.

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