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ST. LOUIS– St. Louis native Ellie Kemper has responded to the online backlash she received last week involving her connection to the local Veiled Prophets organization and its controversial past.

Kemper, crowned the queen of the organization’s Veiled Prophet’s Ball in 1999, said on Instagram that she wants to apologize to the people she’s disappointed and that she was not aware of the group’s history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse.

Over Memorial Day weekend, fans reportedly came across a 2014 article from The Atlantic looking at the Veiled Prophets. It prompted Twitter to denounce Kemper’s connection to the group.

The article says the group’s first parade “emphasized the existing power structure” of the city when it first debuted.

The Post-Dispatch also wrote an article in 2019 titled: Veiled Prophet: Symbol of wealth, power, and to some, racism. It reported the ball was met with protests in the 1970s and in recent years as well. It also had to move from a city-owned auditorium over allegations of racism. The organization didn’t include any black men until 1979.

Here is what Kemper wrote in Monday’s Instagram post:

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.

Thanks for reading this.


The Veiled Prophet Organization released this statement:

Upon reflection, the Veiled Prophet Organization acknowledges our past and recognizes the criticism levied our way. 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.

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.

We are, and always will be committed to the success of the region and making St Louis a better place to live for all.

Veiled Prophets Organization