Ellie Kemperfinally addresses pictures of her in a rookie contest run by an organization steeped in racism … saying she should have done more homework on the group.
The actress – known for “The Office”, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Bridesmaids” – apologizes a week after the reappearance of photos showing her crowned in 1999 as the new queen of love and beauty at the Veiled Prophet Ball in Saint Louis.
At the time, Ellie was a 19-year-old freshman at Princeton and said, “The century-old organization that hosted the debutants’ ball had an unmistakably racist, sexist and elitist past. I was not aware of this story at the time, but ignorance is no excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before joining.
When Kemper’s photos resurfaced, activists pointed out that the competition was organized by executives of major banks and corporations who refused to hire black men.
Ellie added: “I unequivocally deplore, denounce and reject white supremacy. At the same time, I recognize that because of my race and privilege, I am the beneficiary of a system that has delivered unequal justice and unequal rewards. “
The competition was started in the late 1800s by a former Confederate officer in St. Louis, which is Ellie’s hometown.
Part of the lore includes the winner being crowned by a so-called “veiled Prophet” in an outfit that largely resembles the white robes of the KKK … although this link has since been refuted after historians have noted that the competition dates back to the 1870s, while members of the KKK didn’t start wearing white dresses and hoods until the early 1900s.
For what it’s worth, the organization behind the competition finally began accepting black members in 1979.