Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper is facing the heat on social media after a photo showing her being crowned the queen of the 1999 Veiled Prophet Ball when she was 19 years old started circulating online.
Kemper grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where the Veiled Prophet Organization has hosted a debutante ball since 1878 but the pageant's "racist" origins have brought the 41-year-old actress' past under scrutiny.
What is the Veiled Prophet Ball?
The Veiled Prophet Organization was created in 1878 after Charles Slayback, a Confederate cavalryman-turned-grain merchant, called a meeting of business and civic leaders, according to The Atlantic. He wanted to establish a new secret society and the St Louis elites picked someone to anonymously play the Veiled Prophet, who then chose a Queen of Love and Beauty from the female attendees at the ball, which was later nicknamed the Violet Prophet or VP Ball.
Kemper, whose father was the CEO of a bank holding company, and whose great-great-grandfather was a railroad magnate, received this title at the ball in December 1999 and was the 105th woman to be honored by the Veiled Prophet Organization, according to reports from The St. Louis Dispatch at the time.
The society allegedly has a history of racism as Black members were not allowed to join the organisation until 1979. Historian Thomas Spencer, who wrote a book on the subject, noted that the main goal for the Veiled Prophet Ball and its elaborate parade was to "reinforce" the elites' values on the working class. An illustration of the first Veiled Prophet also makes him appear similar to a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Although it is not literally the Ku Klux Klan, the ball's origins could be described as Klan-adjacent.
Kemper's participation in the VP ball has sparked outrage on social media with Twitter users voicing their disdain over the fact that Kemper would associate with an organisation that allegedly has a racist past. Here are some of the reactions:
The former The Office alum has not yet addressed the controversy.