Ellie Kemper has finally issued a statement following all of the commotion surrounding her involvement in a debutante pageant run by an organization rooted in racism when she was a teenager.
The actress–who is known for roles in The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt–is apologizing one week after pictures resurfaced showing her being crowned as the new Queen of Love and Beauty in 1999 at the Veiled Prophet Ball in St. Louis.
“Hey guys – when I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown,” Kemper wrote. “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 that 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 has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards.”
When the pics of Kemper resurfaced, people familiar with the tradition pointed out many problematic things about it, including the fact that the pageant had been organized by heads of major banks and corporations who refused to hire Black men. Plus, part of the tradition includes the winner being crowned by a “Veiled Prophet” outfit that largely resembles the KKK’s white robes.
After posting the statement to Instagram, her Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt co-star Tituss Burgess took to social media to show his support for Kemper.
“I love my Ellie [heart emoji],” the 42-year-old actor captioned his repost of Ellie’s apology. “Oh, & P.S. Next time, just ask me, I’ll tell ya what to do.”
Ellie replied in the comments, “I love you Tituss,” adding three heart emojis.