Earlier this month, when Keke Palmer announced she’d be hosting the 2020 VMAs, she recruited her beloved Nickelodeon character True Jackson for the occasion, recording a video call between the two where they celebrate Palmer’s new gig and make plans to glam her up appropriately for the occasion. It was a nice resurrection for True, even in an era marked by reboots, where no character stays retired for too long.
But Palmer tells MTV News the moment had added significance for a generation of fans who grew up viewing young mogul True as a role model. “As I’ve gotten older, I didn’t realize how much of an influence that character had on young Black women, young millennials, young kids, just everybody, because it’s like, yo, this is a young person living their dream,” she said.
“People have been talking about wanting a reboot, and then it was trending on TikTok, the theme song, and so when I heard I was going to be hosting, I said, if we’re going to announce it everybody, let’s use something that feels as close to home for me as it does to them. Let’s have True celebrate Keke on this new gig.”
What’s perhaps even more inspiring than True’s legacy is how, since the show ended in 2011, Palmer has diversified her own career with a wide range of creative projects. She’s continued to act in shows like Scream and brought humor and earnestness to a key role in 2019’s Hustlers. 2020, meanwhile, has seen a panoply of explorational music ranging from the fizz of “Snack” to the dreamy R&B of Rick Ross collab “Virgo Tendencies.”
Following her creativity, she said, is essential to building a lasting body of work. “I just want to encourage people to say, like, hey, whether you’re that new fresh face that somebody’s looking for, or whether you fell into it, or it’s accidental, or whatever — working hard for it, that counts, too. Keep working hard, because hard work does pay off.”
“If the opportunity’s not there for me,” she continued, “I’ll create it for myself.”
Palmer’s creativity will shine through when she hosts the star-packed VMAs this year. Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande are set to bring their dance anthem “Rain on Me” to life with a powerful performance, while global phenoms BTS will mark the TV debut of their explosive new single “Dynamite.” The Weeknd, Miley Cyrus, Doja Cat, Maluma, and CNCO will also take the stage.
Gaga and Grande lead the 2020 nominations field with nine each. Billie Eilish and The Weeknd follow close behind with six apiece. See the full list of nominees, and vote for your faves across 15 gender-neutral categories right now, at vma.mtv.com.
The 2020 VMAs will air live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, August 30 across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.