Did Ellie Kemper know Veiled Prophet Ball was racist? Actor apologizes for taking part

Ellie Kemper apologized for participating in Veiled Prophet Ball, a 1999 Missouri pageant that had an 'unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past'


                            Did Ellie Kemper know Veiled Prophet Ball was racist? Actor apologizes for taking part
Actress Ellie Kemper came under fire for participating in a 1999 'racist' Missouri pageant (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Ellie Kemper, star of 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt', on Monday, June 7, apologized for participating in a 1999 Missouri pageant that originally prohibited Black participants and promoted the wealthy White elite, claiming she was unaware of the pageant's "racist, sexist, and elitist background" at the time.

Earlier this month, Kemper's background was scrutinized following reports of her winning a 'racist' pageant with Ku Klux Klan roots, and being named queen of the Veiled Prophet Ball (VP) in 1999, when she was 19 years old.

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Kemper was born and raised in St Louis where the Veiled Prophet Organization has held a debutante ball every year since 1878. Racial segregation was rampant and the Veiled Prophet didn't allow Black members to join until 1979, further solidifying its disturbing intentions.



 

Did Ellie Kemper know the Veiled Prophet Ball was racist?

In an Instagram post, Kemper said her lack of knowledge of the organization's history as a youngster wasn't an excuse. "When I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown. The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past," she wrote. "I was not aware of this history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before getting involved."

"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 dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards," she said. "There is a very natural temptation, when you become the subject of internet criticism, to tell yourself that your detractors are getting it all wrong. But at some point last week, I realized that a lot of the forces behind the criticism are forces that I've spent my life supporting and agreeing with," she added.



 

Kemper went on to express her regret to people who she had 'disappointed'. After a photo of her being proclaimed the winner resurfaced and went viral on social media a week ago, the uproar grew louder. The image, which was first published in the St Louis Dispatch newspaper, provoked outrage as Kemper was dubbed the "KKK queen" for winning the competition.

While a famous Veiled Prophet depiction of a figure clad in a hood and robe has been likened to the KKK, there are no documented ties between the group and Klansmen. Historians have previously noted how the group began in the late 1870s, decades before the KKK was established in the early 1900s.



 

Kemper, who has appeared in The Office and Bridesmaids, was the 105th recipient of the award for 'Queen of Love and Beauty', who gets to dance with the Veiled Prophet. Kemper's father, David Kemper, is the chairman of Commerce Bank, and she comes from one of Missouri's wealthiest financial families. Those familiar with the Veiled Prophet stated that comparing Kemper to a white supremacist simply because she was proclaimed queen was a stretch.

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