Following a Twitter storm that has been brewing since last week, actress and comedian Ellie Kemper has addressed her past participation in a controversial debutante pageant.
On Monday, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star and St. Louis native posted a statement on Instagram sharing that she was 19 when she decided to participate in a ball in her hometown and apologized for her involvement.
“The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist and elitist past. I was not aware of the history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before getting involved,” said the 41 year-old actress. “I unequivocally deplore, denounce, and reject white supremacy. At the same time, I acknowledge that because of my race and my privilege, I am the beneficiary of a system that has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards.”
As theGrio previously reported, old St. Louis Dispatch articles about Kemper’s 1999 crowning as the “Queen of Love and Beauty” at the Veiled Prophet Ball made the rounds on Twitter last week and drew scrutiny into Kemper’s background.
In 2014, the Atlantic published an article revealing that the historically racist and aptly named Veiled Prophet organization was founded by former Confederate officials and white elites, and it banned Black and Jewish Americans from joining.
Last week, the organization sent a statement to PEOPLE denying any embrace of racism, saying, “The VP organization is dedicated to civic progress, economic contributions and charitable causes in St. Louis.”
It continued with, “Our organization believes in and promotes inclusion, diversity and equality for this region. We absolutely reject racism and have never partnered or associated with any organization that harbors these beliefs.”
Reactions to Kemper’s apology have ranged from complaints about cancel culture from conservatives to praises from fans. Some online users even went as far as dubbing Kemper a “KKK Queen”.
“Black People in St.Louis grow up screaming to the top of our lungs about the Veil Prophet Society. Ever so often someone from out of town writes about it. Ellie Kemper ain’t nothing new. Every white elite family in the state of Missouri participates in this organization,” wrote one Twitter user.
Media strategist Ashley Yates echoed that sentiment in another tweet writing, “re; Ellie Kemper. We BEEN told y’all about that white supremacist secret society and how it’s still relevant today with members from all of St. Louis’ white wealthy families.”
In her statement, Kemper said she had been reflecting on the criticism she has received since last week and that she believed in personal accountability.
The Office star captioned her post saying, “I want to apologize to the people I’ve disappointed, and I promise that moving forward I will listen, continue to educate myself, and use my privilege in support of the better society I think we’re capable of becoming.”
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