"The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" star Ellie Kemper apologized Monday for her involvement more than two decades ago in a St. Louis debutante ball with racist origins.
In a post on Instagram, Kemper said she agreed to participate in the Veiled Prophet Ball in 1999, when she was 19.
"The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past," Kemper wrote in part. "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."
Kemper's participation in the Veiled Prophet Ball became a subject of conversation on Twitter last week, with some users resurfacing newspaper clippings from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showing she was crowned the "Queen of Love and Beauty" on Dec. 24, 1999. She was a student at Princeton University at the time.
The ball's history was detailed in a 2014 article published by The Atlantic that also made the rounds on Twitter. The article's author, Scott Beauchamp, reported that the Veiled Prophet organization was founded in 1878 by white elites in St. Louis, partly in response to growing labor and racial tensions in the city.
The event barred Black people and Jewish people from joining, and it was seen as a way for the white power structure in the city to "protect their position," according to Beauchamp's article.
In her statement on Twitter, Kemper wrote in part: "I unequivocally deplore, denounce, and reject white supremacy." She went on to say that, because of "my race and my privilege," she had benefited from what she described as an unequal system.
She added that there was a "very natural temptation, when you become the subject of internet criticism, to tell yourself that your detractors are getting it 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," Kemper wrote.
"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."
Kemper is best known for starring in Netflix's "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," co-starring on "The Office" and appearing in the film "Bridesmaids." ("The Office" aired on NBC, and "Bridesmaids" was distributed by Universal Pictures, a unit of NBCUniversal.)