Ellie Kemper: Veiled Prophet Organization Apologizes After Star Brands Its History 'Racist'

The Veiled Prophet Organization has issued an apology, hours after Ellie Kemper branded its history "unquestionably racist" in an Instagram post.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star recently faced criticism after it was revealed that she had served as the Queen of Love and Beauty at the Fair St. Louis—previously known as the Veiled Prophet Ball—in 1999, when she was aged 19.

Critics of the Missouri debutante event, which takes place every December, were quick to point out the organization's past policy of catering to white people only—reportedly barring Black and Jewish participants for decades.

And after Kemper, 41, issued an apology for her participation in the annual event, the Veiled Prophet Organization contacted Newsweek with a statement of its own.

"Upon reflection, the Veiled Prophet Organization acknowledges our past and recognizes the criticism levied our way," said a spokesperson. "We sincerely apologize for the actions and images from our history.

"Additionally, our lack of cultural awareness was and is wrong. We are committed to change, allowing our actions to match the organization we are today."

Continued the spokesperson: "The VP Organization of today categorically rejects racism, in any form. Today's VP is committed to diversity and equity in our membership, community service initiatives and support for the region.

"Our hope is that moving forward, the community sees us for who we are today and together we can move this region forward for everyone."

Hours beforehand, Kemper—a native of Missouri—offered her own apology on social media, writing: "The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past.

"I was not aware of this history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before getting involved."

She continued: "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."

Adding that she believes "strongly in the values of kindness, integrity, and inclusiveness," she said: "I want to apologize to the people I've disappointed, and 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."

Kemper was the 105th recipient of her title when she took part in the ball as a teen student at the Ivy League Princeton University.

According to an article published by The Atlantic in 2014, the event—founded by topSt. Louis businessmen—"emphasized the existing power structure" of the city when it debuted as the Veiled Prophet Ball in 1878.

Early illustrations of the Veiled Prophet donning a white hood and robes drew comparisons to the Ku Klux Klan, although the attire wasn't adopted by the terrorist hate group until after the release of D.W. Griffith's 1915 film The Birth of a Nation.

The organization eventually allowed African Americans to join in 1979, and the event's name was changed in 1992, from the Veiled Prophet Ball to the Fair St. Louis.

While the ball continues to be held each December, its associated parade—which is said to have once included floats showing racist caricatures of different ethnic groups in its early days—now takes place over the Fourth of July weekend.

Today, the summer fair is a far cry from its beginnings, serving as an inclusive celebration of America's Independence Day.

Ellie Kemper apologizes for Veiled Prophet participation
Ellie Kemper attends the 2019 Ad Council Dinner on December 05, 2019 in New York City. The actress has issued an apology for participating in the Fair St. Louis—previously known as the Veiled Prophet Ball—in 1999, when she was aged 19. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images