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It’s easy to look around and ask, “where are all the role models?” There are so many running from the title. But it would be nice for there to be a role model that is not part of the typical cast of characters we expect in the likes of a Michelle Obama. Instead, there is a need for an advocate for young women. One who can connect with those who don’t have it all the way together, but are trying.

Enter Keke Palmer.

No, our girls don’t solely have the reality television twerk stars to idolize. There is a revolutionary maven paving the way and breaking down barriers. She has stood front and center on the Broadway stage in Cinderella – a role that is usually reserved for white actresses. She has also created her own lane in the talk show circuit as the youngest host ever, speaking as a voice for the young people.

When speaking on all of her massive success last year, the 21-year-old pick for Forbes’ 30 under 30 list basically said that she didn’t let “I can’t” be part of her vocabulary:

“I know that the role of Cinderella is primarily for a Caucasian girl, but it didn’t stop me from going in and it didn’t stop them from seeing me,” she said in her cover interview with Essence. “There is a bit of intimidation. You think about Denzel, Viola Davis, and you think, Only great people can do Broadway. That was the scariest thing about it, but I’m the type who thrives on pressure.”

Palmer represents the ability to see the challenge and go for it rather than run away from it. She approaches life with a fresh, open mind and is a source of encouragement for girls looking to take big leaps. Not only that, but she is someone to look up to when it comes to not losing yourself in a relationship as a young woman. As she told us last year about choosing to be abstinent:

“We’re young, live your life and enjoy yourself. My thing is, people need to be with those who respect you. At the end of the day, whoever you spend your time with make sure they value you. If you feel over the course of time they are deserving of whatever it is you would like to give them, fine. My twitter rant [about sex] was for myself; I find myself dating guys who I do not talk to anymore because, I assume, we have not had sex. [Sex] is the number one topic in the conversation with these men and I’m like ‘uh no, I do not want to talk about that all the time!’ I do not know why there is so much pressure being built when you are dating someone. It’s like they have a ticking time clock on you. It is not about the time, it is about making sure this is the right person…My priority is not the sex. I refuse to succumb to my flesh. I will not offer myself up to someone who does not know my spirit.”

In the Instagram generation, where girls find themselves doing it all for the likes, hoping to land a spot on the popular page and potentially attract a flurry of flattering comments under their selfies, Palmer shows the beauty in putting yourself first. Love will come. Love yourself first.

But even when you follow the star on Instagram, you can see that she is your typical 21-year-old girl. Silly faces, outfit malfunctions, great and bad hair days – Keke Palmer clearly doesn’t have a normal everyday life considering her profession, but take away the bright lights and the movie credits when you look at her, and she comes off as any girl’s best friend, favorite cousin or sister.

Her relatable attitude and spirit fills a void for young African-American women seeking to find those in their age range who are successful for reasons beyond a celebrity boyfriend. No shade though…

Congratulations to Palmer on all the success that she has already had, and for all the success that is yet to come, but on the way.

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