Ellie Kemper Apologizes for Debutante Ball with “Unquestionably Racist” Past: “Ignorance Is No Excuse”

Kemper was scrutinized last week after old newspaper articles documenting her role as the Veiled Prophet Queen began trending online

Ellie kemper apologizes racist debutantes ball veiled prophet queen
Ellie Kemper, photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

    Ellie Kemper has issued an apology for her role as the Veiled Prophet Queen of a debutante ball with what she called an “unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past.” This comes after old newspaper articles documenting the event went viral, with some mocking the veteran actress as the “KKK Princess” or “KKK Queen.”

    “When I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown,” the star of The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt wrote in an Instagram post. “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.”

    The Veiled Prophet Ball was founded in 1878 in St. Louis by ex-Confederate soldiers. While the formerly whites-only gala existed decades before the KKK revival in 1915, their use of white-hooded ceremonies presaged that reviled institution. The Ball finally desegregated in 1979, the year before Kemper was born. By the time she was named queen in 1999, the hosting organization had sought to downplay its bigoted founders, though pictures from the event suggest that the membership remained mostly white.


    In her statement, Kemper wrote that, “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 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,” she continued. “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 this experience in a positive light.”

    She ended on a note of contrition: “I want to apologize to the people I’ve disappinted, 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.” Check out the full statement below.


    Next, Kemper will be starring in reboot of Home Alone starring Jojo Rabbit’s Archie Yates.

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