Actor Ellie Kemper has apologized for participating in a debutante ball hosted by a St. Louis organization that she now says had “an unquestionably racist, sexist and elitist past.”
The 41-year-old St. Louis native and star of TV’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was criticized on Twitter after it was revealed that when she was 19, she was named “Queen of Love and Beauty” at St. Louis’ Veiled Prophet Ball.
The Veiled Prophet Organization dates to the late 1800s, and did not allow Black members until 1979. Daughters of many prominent St. Louis families have held the same title as Kemper, whose family founded the bank holding company Commerce Bancshares.
Kemper, who rose to fame on TV’s The Office, said on Instagram that she was unaware at the time of the history of the Veiled Prophet, but stated that “ignorance is no excuse.”
Kemper’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt co-star, Tituss Burgess, later offered his support. He reposted her message to his own Instagram account, captioning it with the message “I love my Ellie.”
The Veiled Prophet Organization put out its own statement saying it “acknowledges our past and recognizes the criticism levied our way.” The statement said that the organization today “rejects racism, in any form.”