What Keke Palmer Taught Me About Growing Into Your Sexual Self-Confidence



A few weeks ago a friend and I decided to do happy hour. Nothing special really; we weren’t celebrating a birthday or a job promotion. I was just happy to get out of the house after being chased by a clingy one-year-old all week. I also enjoyed having an opportunity to get a little glamorous. Getting dolled up and pulling out the NYX Devil’s Food Cake lip gloss to do the dishes seems a little silly, but this was happy hour. I’d be in public among other living, legal drinking age adults, so why not? So last Friday afternoon I was prancing around the house to my “Pop Goes My Playlist” Spotify mix while getting ready, when my BFF’s comes knocking at the door. I answered the door to find her dressed in a hoodie and sweatpants, hair pulled back in a ponytail.


I immediately felt overdressed in a knee-length leather skirt and low cut white tank that was making “the girls” stand at attention. My face was beat like Muhammad Ali went all haymaker with my Naked palette and my curly purple-highlighted hair couldn’t possibly get any bigger. This wouldn’t be the first time my friend retreated to the trusty “yoga pants and ponytail” look for what had planned to be a night out on the town and it made me wonder if I was doing the absolute most, or if she wasn’t doing enough.

The whole situation reminded me of women’s various definitions of sex appeal; what it looks like and when and where it’s appropriate. In my opinion there’s never a time to not feel sexy on some very basic level. Most importantly, sex appeal is more about how you feel than what you’re wearing, but we can’t deny that how you present yourself is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Kim Kardashian posing topless in a public bathroom may not be making a profound statement on women’s equality, but you can’t deny she’s sending us a message (albeit a repeatedly annoying message) that she loves the skin she’s in, preferably when she’s butt booty naked. And there is something about that for whatever reason that encourages me to like my sexual self a little bit more.

I think I take for granted that all women believe that pu**y is power. Actually I hate that phrase and I’m not completely convinced it’s true but I guess I just have always felt like there’s a certain confidence that comes with being a woman that started the day Eve convinced Adam’s horny ass to eat the apple. My husband told me something a long time ago about sex-appeal, “It’s all about confidence and the way you carry yourself.” I guess in that respect, whether you’re rocking a ponytail or the best beach wave lacefront money can buy, owning your sexuality is as much about what you believe about yourself as what you’re wearing.


From Kim K. Prancing around her bathroom in her birthday suit to Keke Palmer popping that thing with a Firecracker popsicle to Rihanna’s, “Work”, there’s something about women owning their sexuality that makes me uncomfortably excited. When you truly believe you are sexy, you’re making a statement to the world that making the general public break their neck with just your very being is your birthright. Witnessing the emancipation of Ms. Keke Palmer is reminding me of JUST that. I mean at this point I think we’re all used to seeing Amber Rose’s bikini line but witnessing Palmer go from “True Jackson MVP” to grown woman is a memo to every woman that there is a whole sexual side to them that should exist regardless of if there’s a man in their presence or not.

A few weeks ago Palmer proved she’s come a long way from “Akeelah and the Bee” when she premiered a dance video to the Rihanna hit single “Work”. The vid sent so much traffic to her website that it shut down for a few minutes. In the video, Palmer is twerking on the floor of a deep freezer, licking her lips with her hair twists dangling across her waist with every wiggle. A routine that many of us have more than likely done in our bedroom mirrors on a Saturday night in or for some of us more extroverted personalities, in the hip-hop room of a nightclub after one too many Blue Long Island Iced Teas. Initially I found my eyes rolling into my head thinking, “Here’s another Disney kid doing the damn most to prove herself by getting too sexual, too soon.” But when I silenced the hate (because truth is, Keke is looking dope beyond measure and it’s making me kind of miss my twenties before c-section scars and the need for coffee to exert any real energy) I have to admit she pretty much killed it. In fact, I preferred watching this version over Rihanna’s official vid where she’s pretty much just dangling her nipple piercings and grinding on Drake.

As much as I wanted to say, “Keke put some clothes on. You’re a role model. How dare you be sexy?” The truth is Lauren “Keke” Palmer is a 22-year-old grown women who handles her business and is every bit sexy as she is smart. She’s an accomplished singer and actor who has spoken out articulately on everything from anti-bullying to #BlackGirlMagic. Most importantly she’s managed to balance being about her business and being herself, making it clear with recent singles like “I Don’t Belong To You”that she’s living her life the best way she know how for herself:

“I don’t belong to anyone else but myself. I have to make my own decisions. Happiness is defined by me. My sexuality is defined by me. And that can change and this can change and I can make it what I want to make it because I’m the one who makes that choice. So that’s what ‘I Don’t Belong to You’ is saying. This song feels right. It feels right and it’s telling who I am. And it captures my identity.”

It’s like finding a thong in your little sister’s underwear drawer or seeing an old-school picture of your mother in a mini-skirt. You’re forced to recognize that inside of every woman whether it’s your daughter or your sister there’s a sexual being that doesn’t make her any less sweet or sophisticated, but that much more human. There’s a beauty in that balance that still makes so many of us uncomfortable, that still makes us question if Amber Rose can rock a g-string and still be a good mother or if Keke Palmer can have a kissing scene with Cassie and still be your kid’s role model.

Palmer recently announced that she’ll be adding “author” to her already impressive resume, with a book that shares the name of one of her recent singles. She describes “I Don’t Belong To You” as an inpirational memoir and self-help guide:

“It’s about the inner-hero we all have.”

Even though she’s ten years my junior, Ms. Palmer is teaching me a lesson about owning my sexuality that I almost forgot. Too many times I’ve come across women who think that unless they’re gonna be getting some, there’s no need to shave your legs, put on perfume, or even just feel sexy. We place our sexuality along with other sides of our personalities in separate categories that can’t be opened unless the others are closed. But owning your sexuality is about more than who will be in your bed by the end of the night. More than what you’re wearing, sometimes you just gotta be sexy for your damn self and nothing more. Whether you’re posting yourself topless in a public bathroom and calling it “feminism”, going with the bold, red lip for happy hour, or shutting ish down on Playstation 4 in a pair of yoga pants, it’s my belief that women should feel sexy every single day. Owning your sexuality is about allowing it to co-exist with every part of you and not just reserving it for special occasions. Because if Keke Palmer has taught me anything, it’s that you deserve to feel desirable, passionate, and damn it the slightest bit turned on by no one but your damn self.

Having trouble tapping into tour inner sexy?  Whether you’re closing a deal like a damn boss in Zac Posen pumps or secretly twerking in your bedroom to Drake’s “Come Thru” wearing nothing but some Beats headphones, these tips will help you get any stalled sexual-self confidence going:


1. Get a stripper song.

You can’t tell me I’m not at Magic City making Drake empty his account on my thighs whenever I hear Ne-yo’s “Stress Reliever”. You don’t have to go all “Player’s Club” on a pole to adopt the sexual self confidence of a stripper, but a good slow jam to bring out your inner sexy is always a great way to FEEL sexy even if your think you LOOK silly.


2. Embrace your inner ratchet.

Everytime I hear a club banger like Chris Brown’s “Strip” drop, my tongue instantly falls out of my mouth and my hips begin to pop. You might as well make a meme of me saying, “Heyy!” while looking back at it. It’s extra ratchet, but it’s unapologetically me. Embracing all of your ratchet quirks is confident and confidence is sexy.

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3. Be honest about what gets you off.

Beyonce’ made it clear that she wanted a “soldier” when she belted out, “We like low-cut Caesar’s with the deep waves.” Whether your weakness is for a man with a fresh haircut or even a woman who actually knows what the hell she’s talking about when it comes to all things Marvel and DC comics, it’s important to acknowledge and be proud of what gets you feeling some type of way.

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4. Find your inner Sasha Fierce.

When you’re having trouble finding your inner sex goddess in everyday life, it helps to have an alter ego. Mine is a mix of Mindy Kaling and Vashtie- awkwardly clever, and cool while dressing my ass off and the superpower of creating a great playlist. Whenever I feel like I’m not nailing the sexual confidence, I try to look to these gals to remind me of how awesome I have the potential to be.

janelle monae

5. Assume the position.

Think of sexual signature move that no matter how off or awkward you feel, you know will give you the ability to bring any man to his knees. Rihanna knows even if she puts out a single that does double tinfoil, a proper Dutty Wine will have us all bending over backwards (literally and figuratively). It can be simple as swinging your hair while flirting or complex as pulling off a triangle pose…in the shower…with your bae.


6. Applaud your anatomy.

Much like your signature move, on your worst days when the one eyebrow won’t cooperate and you’re in much need of a manicure, there should be one part of your anatomy that you know no matter what is always on 10. Kim K. breaks the internet routinely with body parts that never get tired no matter how many times we’ve seen them. Beyonce’s hips and confident swagger command attention whether she’s walking on stage or across a beach with a baby by her side. Pick a body part that makes you fall in love with yourself over and over even on those days where you may be bickering with the rest of your anatomy.


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