Over Memorial Day Weekend, someone on Twitter discovered the fact that Ellie Kemper participated in St. Louis’s Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball where she was crowned the Veiled Prophet Queen of Love and Beauty in 1999. Kemper temporarily trended on Twitter, as hundreds of thousands of people discovered that there are some very strange and cinematically racist old traditions left in various pockets of this country. Now, Kemper has apologized for her participation in the Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball, which has an inarguably racist and elitist past.
For the uninitiated, the drama was brief but delicious—if you’re the sort of person who relishes this kind of shit. Kemper was 19 at the time she was crowned queen of the old racists, and this achievement was just a part of her debut. Arguably, the larger issue here is that the debutante system, whatever it may be, is elitist, classist and racist, and should be dismantled from within, but Twitter is a platform that does not prioritize or reward nuance. Kemper’s status as “main character” on the app has now faded, but she might re-enter the discourse with this apology, which is pretty good, all things considered.
Celebrity apologies are ham-fisted, overwrought pieces of writing carefully crafted by publicists to make sure that all bases are covered, without offending anyone further, while also not further enraging the community the famous person already offended in the first place. Technically, Kemper didn’t do anything outrightly wrong; she participated in an event with a racist past as a teenager, without interrogating in full the history of what she was participating in. Kemper, however, acknowledges that “ignorance is no excuse.” Engaging in reflection after the fact is a good first step, and honestly, if Kemper had just gathered her skirts in a huff and taken the defense, as is everyone’s first impulse when under (rightful) attack, the conversation would be quite different. She acknowledges that impulse in her apology before promising to “listen” and continuing to educate herself.
Kemper’s apology reads as sincere, intelligent, and genuine, which is all anyone can ask for.