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Actress Ellie Kemper broke her silence and issued an apology for her participation in a debutante pageant covered in racist controversy back when she was 19 years old.
The comedic star of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, who was also featured in Bridesmaids and The Office took to her Instagram on Monday (June 7) to apologize for her involvement in the Veiled Prophet Ball in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Articles from the St. Louis Dispatch that covered her crowning at the event in 1999 wound up setting Twitter afire this past weekend, making many speculate about Kemper and why she would take part in such a thing.
“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 post from the 41-year old actress.
A 2014 article in The Atlantic dove deeper into the group’s origins. The Veiled Prophet Ball has been a controversial part of St. Louis history dating back to its founding in 1878 by white elites in the city and former officials of the Confederate Army, with the goal of turning the public away from movements that were demanding social and economic justice at the time with a parade akin to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Many on Twitter also pointed to the fact that the group didn’t have any Black members until 1979 after considerable protests.
The organization behind the Veiled Prophet Ball which still takes place today, issued their own statement. In it, they claimed that “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.”