You may have noticed Ellie Kemper was trending on Twitter. She’s not dead. So she must’ve done something really amazing, right? Wrong! Turns out Kimmy Schmidt isn’t as inoffensive as she seems. A picture began circulating on Twitter showing Kemper as the Queen Of Love And Beauty at the Fair Saint Louis in 1999. You might be wondering what’s so wrong about being crowned queen of some ball. Well, the Fair Saint Louis was previously known as the Veiled Prophet Ball and it is racist as fuck.
The Atlantic reported in 2014 that the Veiled Prophet Organization initially barred Black and Jewish people from joining. It’s an organization for the white elites of Missouri, and there’s a Veiled Prophet parade that happens every year where a debutante is given the honor of top rich white girl. As Jezebel reported last year, the parade was started in 1878 by a Confederate officer named Alonzo Slayback—so it’s always had racist connotations. And not only is it a racist celebration, but it’s a pretty bizarre ceremony, too. As The Atlantic’s Scott Beauchamp explained, “the primary goal of the VP events was to take back the public stage from populist demands for social and economic justice. More than just a series of gaudy floats traversing the city streets, the parade and all its pomp was meant to reinforce the values of the elite on the working class of the city.” It’s basically a reminder to the town that rich white folks will always be in power. How fun!
Here’s how the ceremony works: “A person would be chosen by a secret board of local elites to anonymously play the role of the Veiled Prophet. The Veiled Prophet would chose a Queen of Love and Beauty from among the elite ball attendees (of course, invitation list to be kept strictly confidential as well) with whom he would dance a “Royal Quadrille” before presenting her with an expensive keepsake such as a tiara or pearls.”
Kemper’s wealthy upbringing has never been a secret. She has wealthy parents (her dad was the chairman and chief executive of Commerce Bank) and went to Princeton. But what’s surprising in this case is how her participation in a racist pageant hadn’t been discussed until now. It’s not like it’s ever been hidden. St. Louis Post-Dispatch published about article on her crowning back in 2018 (that’s where the picture circulating on Twitter is from). Kemper was 19 years old when she was selected to be the Queen Of Love And Beauty. At that age, teenagers are mature enough to know what they’re being part of. She hasn’t released a statement yet, but here’s hoping she at least understands why people are upset over her participation in an event rooted in white supremacy.
UPDATE [6/2/2021]: The headline of this piece has been changed to reflect that the Veiled Prophet Ball, and not Ellie Kemper herself, has ties to racism and white supremacy.