Ellie Kemper has issued a formal apology after recently facing backlash when images of the then-19-year-old actress participating in a pageant with a controversial past resurfaced on the internet.
In a statement uploaded to her Instagram page on Monday, June 7, “The Office” star acknowledged the Veiled Prophet Ball’s “unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past.” She also recognized that although she was unaware of the organization’s past, “ignorance is no excuse.”
She continued, “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 has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards.”
The “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” star explained that people’s first instinct is to disagree with the critic in incidences like the controversy she found herself embroiled at the end of May. However, Kemper revealed that “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 continued, “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.” The 41-year-old concluded her statement apologizing to those she “disappointed” and pledged to listen and continue to educate herself, and “use my privilege in support of the better society I think we’re capable of becoming.”
The star garnered support from fans and fellow actors for her transparency and for taking accountability. In a length comment, comedian Yvette Nicole Brown thanked the star for “taking the time to apologize.” She added, “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. #Ally❤️.”
Kemper’s co-star Titus Burgess showed his support by sharing Kemper’s apology on his Instagram account with the caption, “I love my Ellie❤️, Oh, & P.S. Next time, just ask me, I’ll tell ya what to do 🥰.”
Kemper came under fire after photos of her being crowned the “Queen of Love and Beauty” at the Veiled Prophet Ball in 1999 went viral on social media. The organization is based in Missouri and was founded in 1878 by a former Confederate cavalryman. A 2014 article from The Atlantic said the secret society was initially created as “a response to growing labor unrest in the city, much of it involving cooperation between white and black workers,” and used heavy symbolism to remind both lower and upper-class people of where they stood.
While the Veiled Prophet Organization was not associated with the Ku Klux Klan, folks on social media began calling Kemper “KKK princess” after deciding that a grainy drawing of what was purportedly the first-ever Veiled Prophet resembled someone in KKK robes and hood. Others point out that the group had no Black members until 1979.
Following the scandal, the organization released its own statement, rejecting racism, writing, “Our organization believes in and promotes inclusion, diversity and equality for this region.” They added, “We absolutely reject racism and have never partnered or associated with any organization that harbors these beliefs.”