Actress Ellie Kemper is speaking out and apologizing after she went viral on Twitter unexpectedly. As Mamas Uncut previously reported, a Twitter user stumbled upon a 22-year-old newspaper clipping of Kemper.
The clipping was celebrating her for being crowned the 1999 Queen of Love and Beauty at St. Louis’s Veiled Prophet Ball at the age of 19 years old. According to The Atlantic, Kemper was a student at Princeton and the Veiled Prophet has a rather upsetting history.
According to the 2014 article by The Atlantic, the primary goal of Veiled Prophet events “was to take back the public stage from populist demands for social and economic justice.” And while “only two Veiled Prophets have had their identity revealed” to the public, The Atlantic reported that “the image of the first Veiled Prophet is armed with a shotgun and pistol and is strikingly similar in appearance to a Klansman,” adding that this only added to the “message of class and race hegemony.”
Additionally, the Veiled Prophet had a reported history of “emphasizing the existing power structure” and banned Black and Jewish members from their events, events like the pageant Kemper won as a teenager. As a result of the organization’s history, people became upset that the star of Netflix’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was once linked to such a group.
Along with a newspaper photo of Ellie Kemper at the pageant, the twitter user wrote, “So was no one gonna tell me Ellie Kemper, AKA Kimmy Schmidt, was crowned KKK queen in 1999?” The photo showed Kemper in a white dress and white gloves talking with two younger girls.
It’s important to note that despite The Atlantic’s report of images tied to the Veiled Prophet and this particular tweet, the Veiled Prophet Ball has no reported ties to the KKK, The Wrap reported.
“Hi guys, when I was 19 years old, I decided t 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. I was not aware of the history at the time, but ignorance is now excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before getting involved,” Kemper began.
“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. 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. I believe strongly in the values of kindness, integrity, and inclusiveness. I try to live my life in accordance with these values. If my experience is an indication that organizations and institutions with pasts that fall short of these beliefs should be held to account, then I have to see this experience in a positive light.”
Kemper concluded her statement by 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. Thanks for reading this.”
Several people responded to her apology. Here are a few responses:
“Thank you for this thoughtful apology. We’re only ever gonna move forward as a society if we can look at our lives and figure out what we could have acknowledged or avoided and teach that. So thanks,” Akilahh wrote.
“Thank you for taking the time to apologize, Ellie. And for realizing that though you didn’t know about the white supremacy origins of the organization, fans of yours —who are still affected by the myth of white supremacy to this day — needed to hear that you realize it was hurtful for us to learn about it all and that you are sorry that you took part,” Yvette Nicole Brown added.
“Cancel the behavior not the person. I appreciate this acknowledgement. Thank you. We all need to recognize our part in these old, harmful systems. Peace and love to you. I think you’re pretty rad,” Jennifer Paz said.
According to St. Louis.gov, the first ‘VP Queen’ was crowned in 1878.
“Created in 1878 by white male community leaders, the Mystic Order of the Veiled Prophet of the Enchanted Realm sought to recreate the Mardi Gras type of community-wide celebration. This gala came to include pageantry, costumes, and a parade with floats. It officially unveiled its first “Queen of Love and Beauty,” or the VP Queen, and the Veiled Prophet Ball in 1878. The VP Fair on the riverfront started in 1979, and became Fair St. Louis in 1995. The traditional VP celebration has represented for St. Louisans a perceived link between different components of the community in a holiday celebration, while also reinforcing the notion of a benevolent cultural elite.”
Ellie Kemper is a mom of two and married to Michael Koman.
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