Ellie Kemper apologises for her participation in a controversial pageant when she was a teenager.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star was recently the subject of a backlash. It happened when a newspaper article about her coronation as the 1999 Queen of Love and Beauty at the Veiled Prophet Ball in St. Louis, Missouri, resurfaced because the organization has been accused of racism and subject to protest since the 1970s.
And now the 41-year-old actress has apologised for her involvement in the event. She insisted her “ignorance” about the Veiled Prophet – which “white male community leaders” founded in 1878 – was no “excuse”. And even at 19 she should have known to have done some research before entering the pageant.
She wrote on Instagram: “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 not an excuse. I was old enough to educate myself before involving in it. 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 dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards.(sic)”
Ellie is trying to learn from the experience and has vowed to “listen” and “continue to educate” herself going forward, as well as committing to do better for wider society.
“There is a very natural temptation when you become the subject of internet criticism. In order 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. 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.
“I want to apologise to the people I’ve disappointed. In addition, 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.(sic)”
According to a 2019 article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Veiled Prophet didn’t include any Black men in its membership until 1979. While a 2014 Atlantic report stated the initial purpose of the event stemmed from labor unrest in the city. And the parade was initially meant “to reinforce the values of the elite on the working class of the city”.
The Veiled Prophet organization has denied accusations of racism.
They said in a statement to the Huffington Post: “The VP organization is dedicated to civic progress, economic contributions and charitable causes in St. Louis.
“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.”
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