"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."
Last week, an unearthed picture of a 19-year-old Ellie Kemper winning the Veiled Prophet Ball was doing the rounds online.
The newspaper clipping showed Kemper as The Queen of Love and Beauty at the 1999 Veiled Prophet Fair. The Veiled Prophet Organization was founded in 1878, and was known for being a white elitist organisation in St. Louis. The first black members weren't admitted into the organisation until 1979.
Following this controversial discovery of the now 41-year-old actor, who starred in 'The US Office' and Netflix's 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt', Ellie Kemper has written a public apology on her Instagram page.
Kemper wrote that at the time of her win, she was "not aware" of the organisation's history. She mentioned her strong beliefs in "kindness, integrity, and inclusiveness" and wrote that she is apologising "to the people I've disappointed". Here's the full statement published by the actor.
"Hi guys - when I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown. 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. 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.
"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. 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.
"I believe strongly in the values of kindness, integrity, and inclusiveness. I try to live my life in accordance with these values. 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 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.
"Thank you for reading this."
Ellie Kemper will next appear in Disney+'s 'Home Alone' reboot as the mother of Max (Archie Yates), who gets left home alone.