Last month I asked What should Keke Palmer do next?  Her early afternoon talk show Strahan, Sara & Keke had just been axed by ABC and I wondered where her talents would take her, because her talent isn’t up for debate. Now we know what the immediate future holds: she’s hosting this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. 


MTV shared the news yesterday with an announcement video featuring Keke playing her True Jackson, VP character — serving MTV’s millennial target demo some late 2000s Nickelodeon nostalgia (the ViacomCBS corporate synergy department is firing on all cylinders lately). The video is cute, especially because Keke always commits to a bit, which should make her a great host. The clip ends with her laying new lyrics on the True Jackson, VP theme song to promote the VMAs airing August 30. It’s the same corny sh-t we’ve seen a hundred times, but Keke keeps it from falling flat.


The Video Music Awards certainly isn’t the ratings juggernaut it used to be and subsequently they don’t hold the same cultural capital, but I still think it’s a great move. I’m sure her team answered yes immediately. I don’t think Palmer’s people offered her as a host, I bet MTV approached them, because Keke is exactly what they live for. Somebody well-liked by audiences, multi-talented, culturally relevant in terms of viral moments, and bonus points if you’re opinionated and politically engaged. MTV likes to pretend it’s still the rebellious, fight the power, voice-of-a-generation it once was… like four corporate mergers ago. 

The last time I wrote about Keke Palmer I said her best asset is her ability to create authentic moments that resonate, and if she can do that on the platform MTV is giving her, this is a huge win, because hosting an awards show is purely about creating equally entertainment segues during a circus. What will she do for the show open? She’s not a comedian, but she is funny, so maybe a monologue? Perhaps a song? No. I’m sick of seeing awards show hosts that aren’t comedians open ceremonies with a song parodying the nominees. She’d really shine comedically in some pre-taped bits with the big nominees. Especially if we get some solid cameo appearances for Keke to bounce off of. Maybe call in a favour from your co-star, JLo. No matter the format they decide, I’d really like to see her hustle the content created for the VMAs outside of the actual broadcast. 


I recently became a cord-cutter, cancelling cable, and keeping Netflix, Crave, and my antenna that picks up two broadcast networks (because in Canada, there are only two that really matter). I don’t have MTV anymore so I won’t be watching the VMAs live and I’m not the only one. As I mentioned, the ratings are a fraction of what they used to be. So Keke, don’t just let MTV pimp your clips from the show all over the internet the day after the awards. They need your skills to create those moments. You need to be posting those moments all over your Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok in the days following the show. RuPaul always tells the Drag Race queens, ‘I gave you the platform, but it’s about what you do with it.’ I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the digital world we live in. Don’t wait for somebody else to meme that funny facial expression you made when you looked into the camera. Meme it yourself, post it yourself. Keke’s got almost two million followers on Twitter. Feed the children… content, that is. Lil Nas X is the best case study of this. His Twitter feed is hilarious, and if memes are translating to money these days, you’ve got to be the first one to make fun of yourself or you’re leaving money on the table.


Say 1.5 million watch the VMA broadcast this year (1.93 million watched last year, down 19% from 2018) and the headlines the next day proclaim that the “2020 Video Music Awards are lowest rated VMAs ever”. It doesn’t really matter to Keke if she amplifies her best moments from the show on her social media. When she walks into her next business meeting, her pitch deck won’t have to creatively spin how she elevated a dying brand like the VMAs. Instead, it could point to how her monologue from the VMAs, which she posted on her IGTV the night of got four million views. The photo she tweeted the next morning of her and Miley Cyrus backstage during the commercial break topped 50K retweets. And the meme she put together from a skit she did with BTS has 45 million likes on TikTok. That’s how celebrities need to start thinking. You see how much money influencers are pulling in? Imagine if these stars with millions of fans learned how to really pimp social media, and then leveraged that to collect even more money from Hollywood. 

Keke’s already booked another gig too. Disney+ announced she’ll voice the role a 14-year-old activist in the upcoming animated series The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. News that made my childhood self scream with excitement. Although, a series regular spot is never a bad thing, I don’t really consider voicing animation to be the marquee gig of an entertainer like Keke. We’re still searching for that. Hopefully a big industry event like the MTV VMAs attracts some eyes that maybe have overlooked her.