‘That’s The Gag’: Keke Palmer Accused Of Cultural Appropriation By The Black LGBTQ Community

Young entertainer Keke Palmer, star of YouTube’s new That’s The Gag series, has been taken to task since 2016 on her continued usage of “the gag,” a phrase that was reportedly, initially coined by the African-American LGBTQ community.

During a sit-down on Late Night with Seth Meyers in July of 2016, the Scream Queens star and singer, 23, expressed that she had taken on the colloquial phrase personally to, essentially, best those who could use her own negative aspects against her.

“‘The gag’ is the catch, it’s the coup,” Keke stated to Seth, as Vulture writes, adding, “it’s the one thing [they can’t take away from you].”

That same year, writer Michael Arceneaux of Complex challenged Ms. Palmer on the origins of “the gag” via Twitter, and expressed frustration over Keke’s assumed unawareness of its multiple meanings in the LGBTQ community that, coincidentally, are far from Ms. Palmer’s chosen definition for the phrase.

Although not directly tagged by Arceneaux in his call-out, Keke ultimately came across his tweet and fired off a response in a now-deleted set of tweets of her own.

“The gag is, you just limited yourself to a phrase,” Palmer posed to Mr. Arceneaux.

“I’m not a [gay] Black man, but I know they have much more [to offer] than that.”

As Urban Dictionary notes, “the gag,” indeed, appears to have origins in the LGBTQ community, with its meaning alluding to being stunned to silence over another person’s — most usually, a drag queen — beauty, persona, or a combination, or lacking of both.

keke palmer that's the gag

As Thought Catalog additionally provides, the original meaning of “the gag” has been promoted to the mainstream most recently by Logo and VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, where many of the drag queen contestants use it as a way to express how gorgeous they feel when they’re in “full drag.”

Case in point, Drag Race alums Manila Luzon and Latrice Royale use the phrase in such a way in their 2014 collaborative dance track “The Chop,” albeit themed more around exuding beauty from within (“Make them eat it and gag!”) as opposed to a person’s physical beauty.

In a related nod, one can also “gag” on a serving of “tea,” meaning that someone can be flabbergasted to silence by a bit of juicy gossip — which, coincidentally, is another usage of the phrase that does not match Ms. Palmer’s version of “the gag.”

Palmer, to date, has never commented further on the matter, but she did release another “gag”-related response on July 31, 2016, that was seemingly targeted to Arceneaux and any followers who agreed that Keke’s appropriation of the term was problematic, in a now-deleted Twitter video.

“You’re tweeting me insults,” she expressed, “but the gag is, I love controversy.”

Keke Palmer’s That’s the Gag is now streaming on YouTube.

[Featured Image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]