14. Though Keke had been working steadily for two years, it was her performance as a National Spelling Bee contestant in the 2006 film Akeelah and the Bee that shot her to stardom. She earned seven award nominations for it, of which she won four.
15. She had to work to earn the role in the first place, though—she auditioned for it five times, and it was only on the fifth round that director Doug Atchison decided that she was the one.
16. Though she signed a record contract with Atlantic Records in 2005, her first single didn’t debut until 2006—on the Akeelah and the Bee soundtrack. The song was “All My Girlz.” Listen to it here!
17. Keke released her debut album, So Uncool, in September, 2007. Unfortunately it was a flop, leading her to split from Atlantic Records shortly thereafter.
18. But Keke didn’t let her album’s failure hold her back—she landed the lead in the Nickelodeon show True Jackson, VP in 2008, about a fashion-forward teen who is hired by a big-time desiger as the VP of his company’s youth apparel division. She starred on the show for three years.
19. Keke also wrote and performed the theme song to True Jackson, VP. Check it out here.
Keke squashed between Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in ‘Joyful Noise.’
20. How’s this for a cute story? One day, Patrick Johnson, Jr. came to the set of True Jackson, VP, and he brought a guy named Rodney with him. Said Keke to Vibe Vixen magazine, “My mouth dropped when I saw him, and I’m just like, Keke, control yourself! I was 15 years old at the time, and he was 19, so we didn’t talk or anything like that. I just always had a huge crush on him.” They got together later—and they’re still together now. Awwww.
21. She’s not just an actress and a singer—she’s also a budding fashionista, not unlike her Nickelodeon character. In July 2009, Keke launched a clothing line with Wal-Mart inspired by True Jackson, VP. The line has jumpers, dresses, knit tops, t-shirts, and leggings, among other things; even better, all the pieces are under 14 bucks a pop. Snazzy.
22. She doesn’t like watching herself on TV.
23. Joyful Noise is making many sit up and take note for its depiction of an interracial romance. How does Keke feel about interracial relationships? Well, her current boyfriend is part Guatemalan, and she’s found to be an interesting experience when it comes to spending time with his family. “It’s culturally different,” she’s said, “but I realized I can still find a way to understand. Even though everyone is speaking Spanish around me and I don’t understand it, his mother is so kind and open that there’s not a problem. I don’t feel like I’m an outsider.”
24. Jonesing for some new Keke music? You’re in luck! She revealed in a game of True or False she played with her Twitter followers in December that she’s anticipating releasing a new album later this year. Hoorah! In the meantime, the Joyful Noise soundtrack dropped earlier this week, and it features Keke covering Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Take a listen here.
25. What’s next for Keke? A role in the film A Virgin Mary with Abigail Breslin and Carter Jenkins. Keke is looking forward to shedding her “good girl” image. She told Vibe Vixen, “In this movie, I’m not necessarily being a hugh slut, but my character is just that. She’s like, ‘I’m a sex enthusiast. That’s who I am,’ but the reason why I chose this film was because it’s different from what everybody knows me as.”
Be sure to catch Keke in Joyful Noise, out tomorrow!
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.