Ellie Kemper has officially apologized for her participation in a 1999 pageant with a reported racist history.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star and regular on The Office took to Instagram Monday to address her past decision to partake in the Veiled Prophet Ball, where she was declared the “Queen of Love and Beauty,” in a lenghty apology.
“Hi guys, when I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown,” she started. “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 no excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before getting involved.”
Ellie continued, writing that she deplores, denounces, and rejects “white supremacy” while writing that “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,” Kemper continued. “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.”
As previously reported, Ellie initially made headlines this month after a photo of her at the event surfaced from what appeared to be a newspaper clipping. The Veiled Prophet Ball was founded in 1878 by white elites who “emphasized the existing power structure.” According to a 2014 report from The Atlantic, they banned Black and Jewish people and the original 1878 “veiled prophet” wore a robe and a hood, which became the Ku Klux Klan uniform.
Twitter was torn on Ellie’s intentions last week, with some talking heads like Ben Shapiro claiming there was no evidence of her doing anything racist and comedians saying that she may just be from “some dumb ass town where they make you square dance.”
Regardless of what her intentions were in 1999, Ellie has apologized and closed by writing that she believes “strongly in the values of kindness, integrity and inclusiveness.”
“I try to live my life in accordance with these values,” she shared. “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 Veiled Prophet Organization “denounced racism” in a statement to People earlier this month.
“The VP organization is dedicated to civic progress, economic contributions and charitable causes in St. Louis,” the statement read. “Our organization believes in and promotes inclusion, diversity and equality for this region. We absolutely reject racism and have never partnered or associated with any organization that harbors these beliefs.”