Keke Palmer Opens VMAs With Empowering Speech: ‘It’s Our Time To Be The Change’

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MTV

Keke Palmer is ready for change. Are you?

The singer and actress was one of the first faces we saw when the 2020 VMAs kicked off, and it was fitting — she is the show's host, after all. But it's what she did with that platform that really seized the unique moment that 2020 has found us all in. "I don't know if I was the first choice [to host], or the only one brave enough to do it during COVID," she joked from the heart of Manhattan as part of her monologue to begin the show. "Either way, I got the job, loves!"

But while the jokes were there — "2020 has undoubtedly been a rough year for everyone, and I'm not just talking about my edges" — so were the frank calls to action that have defined the year just as much as the pandemic has. "We've seen heroes go above and beyond whether they drive a delivery truck, work at a grocery store, or serve on the front lines at a hospital," she said.

"And with the Black Lives Matter movement, we've seen our generation step up, take to the streets, and make suer our voices will be heard," Palmer continued. "Enough is enough. What we just witnessed in Kenosha, Wisconsin is another devastating reminder that we can't stop, that we can never tolerate police brutality or any injustice. We must continue the fight to end systemic racism. The leaders of that movement are you, us, the people watching tonight. It's our time to be the change we want to see."

Her monologue were preceded by a special acknowledgment she gave to Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, whose death from colon cancer was announced on Friday night (August 28). Palmer added her own message: "We dedicate tonight's show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He's a true hero, not just onscreen but with everything he did. His impact lives forever."

"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," Palmer told MTV News earlier this month ahead of the show. "Keep working hard, because hard work does pay off."

Palmer's hosting gig comes the same weekend as the arrival of her latest EP, Virgo Tendencies, Pt. 1, which dropped on August 28 (naturally, just a few days after the kickoff of Virgo season). It features her singles "Snack," "Sticky," "Thick," and "Virgo Tendencies." Her monologue followed a truly dizzying, borderline death-defying performance of "Blinding Lights" from The Weeknd at the observstion deck the Edge at New York City's Hudson Yards, 1,100 feet above the street.

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV's linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find the complete winners list here and everything else you need to know at vma.mtv.com.

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