Ellie Kemper faces backlash after ‘racist’ pageant photo resurfaces


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper is facing backlash online after it emerged she was crowned the 1999 pageant winner for a Missouri organization that once banned black members and celebrated the wealthy white elite. 

A photo of the actress being crowned the winner of the St Louis-based Veiled Prophet Ball when she was 19 years old started going viral on Twitter at the weekend. 

The image, which was originally printed in St Louis Dispatch newspaper, sparked controversy after a person referred to Kemper as the ‘KKK queen’ for being crowned the winner.

While an historic Veiled Prophet image showing a person dressed in a hood and robe has drawn comparisons to the KKK, there are no known links between the organization and Klansman.

Kemper, whose real name is Elizabeth, was a 19-year-old Princeton University student when she was crowned Queen of Love and Beauty in 1999

Kemper, whose real name is Elizabeth, was a 19-year-old Princeton University student when she was crowned Queen of Love and Beauty in 1999

Historians have previously pointed to how the organization was started in the late 1870s, which is decades before the KKK was formed in the early 1900s. 

The Veiled Prophet Organization has, however, been criticized in the past for its racist history and ties to white supremacy.  

The Veiled Prophet Organization was started as a secret society in St Louis back in 1878 by a group of wealth white businessmen.

Its founder Charles Slayback was a grain executive and former Confederate cavalryman. 

The organization banned black and Jewish members until 1979. 

It still holds its annual Veiled Prophet Ball each year, which is similar to a debutante event where members present their daughters to society. 

During the ball, one girl is crowned Queen of Love and Beauty.

The winner is crowned by the ‘Veiled Prophet’ – a member of the organization who covers their face with a white veil so their identity remains secret. The member who is the Veiled Prophet is believed to change each year. 

The ball’s website says 60 to 70 young women are chosen each year for ‘their outstanding community service efforts.

They ‘walk down the magnificent 72-foot-long Veiled Prophet runway in fashionable couture gowns, and in front of family and friends, are presented and honored for their contributions’. 

An historic Veiled Prophet image showing a person dressed in a hood and robe has drawn comparisons to the KKK

An historic Veiled Prophet image showing a person dressed in a hood and robe has drawn comparisons to the KKK

There are no known links between the organization and the white supremacists

There are no known links between the organization and the white supremacists

While an historic Veiled Prophet image showing a person dressed in a hood and robe has drawn comparisons to the KKK, there are no known links between the organization and the white supremacists

The actress, who has starred in The Office and Bridesmaids, was the organization's 105th winner. She hails from one of Missouri's wealthiest banking families and her father, David Kemper, is the chairman of Commerce Bank

The actress, who has starred in The Office and Bridesmaids, was the organization's 105th winner. She hails from one of Missouri's wealthiest banking families and her father, David Kemper, is the chairman of Commerce Bank

The actress, who has starred in The Office and Bridesmaids, was the organization’s 105th winner. She hails from one of Missouri’s wealthiest banking families and her father, David Kemper, is the chairman of Commerce Bank

The annual Veiled Prophet Ball is still held each year where the winner is crowned by a 'Veiled Prophet' (pictured on left) - a member of the organization who covers their face with a white veil so their identity remains secret

The annual Veiled Prophet Ball is still held each year where the winner is crowned by a 'Veiled Prophet' (pictured on left) - a member of the organization who covers their face with a white veil so their identity remains secret

The annual Veiled Prophet Ball is still held each year where the winner is crowned by a ‘Veiled Prophet’ (pictured on left) – a member of the organization who covers their face with a white veil so their identity remains secret

Kemper, whose real name is Elizabeth, was a 19-year-old Princeton University student when she was crowned Queen of Love and Beauty in 1999. 

The actress, who has starred in The Office and Bridesmaids, was the organization’s 105th winner. 

She hails from one of Missouri’s wealthiest banking families and her father, David Kemper, is the chairman of Commerce Bank. 

Twitter erupted after the resurfaced image of Kemper started going viral as some branded her a racist, white supremacist and a ‘KKK queen’. 

They drew comparisons to her role in Kimmy Schmidt where she plays a young woman who escapes an Indiana cult and restarts her life in New York City.  

Others, however, argued that Kemper had no known history of being racist. 

Those with knowledge of the Veiled Prophet argued that it was a stretch to compare Kemper to a white supremacist just because she was crowned queen. 

Kemper has not publicly addressed to her involvement with the Veiled Prophet Organization since it went viral at the weekend. 

The organization still hold the ball and a parade each year but the latter has been rebranded as the ‘America’s Birthday Parade’.

‘Many things have changed since 1878, but the Veiled Prophet Organization will always continue its largest gift to the community: a spectacular parade that has become one of St. Louis’ most enduring family traditions,’ its website reads.  



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