After a Memorial Day weekend filled with accusations that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star, Ellie Kemper, was involved in a debutant’s ball with an allegedly racist past, an employee has come forward to defend the actress – and the event.
An employee of what was formerly known as the Veiled Prophet Ball exclusively tells The Sun: “It's 130, almost 140-year-old organization. And I don’t believe any organization that is 50 to 100 years old looks anything like it did originally.”
“We, the organization, back in the late 50s, early 60s made a concerted effort based on the premise that you cannot serve the community unless that entire community is represented in the organization. And so I think the organization is reflective of the community and the makeup of the community,” the source explains.
The source noted Ellie's participation in the event in 1999 was decades after the organization's efforts to reflect the accurate makeup of the St. Louis community, and added that she participated well beyond any potentially problematic point in its history.
The Sun has reached out to Ellie's reps for comment.
The source continued to explain the current charitable nature of the organization, which is now called Fair St. Louis.
“So much of the energies of this organization are focused on community service and have given huge projects or gifts to the city and to various agencies, who I'm sure would be more than happy to stand up and validate that”
The event’s name has changed several times over the years, from Veiled Prophet Ball to the VP Parade to its current moniker, Fair St. Louis.
The timing of the event has also changed from late December to being held during the week of Independence Day, however the ball was last held in 2019, presumably due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Fair St. Louis employee continued: “This is an organization whose members are St. Louis families, who have been in business in St. Louis for many years.
Since the founding, the organization was created to do something positive, and help make St. Louis a better place to live.”
As far as storied past of Veiled Prophet Ball, the source contends: “The theory, that the organization was steeped in racism is a theory that stems from a book that was an overreach of somebody's doctoral thesis. That's a hypothesis that someone's presenting, but based on the history that I know, I do not agree with it.”
Ellie came under intense scrutiny over the holiday weekend after fans discovered that The Office star had been crowned queen of what was quickly coined a "racist" ball.
The star, born in Kansas, tarted trending on Twitter yesterday after fans found a picture of her as Queen of controversial St Louis' Veiled Prophet Ball in 1999.
Twitter users flocked to comment on the photo, some to "call out" Ellie for "racist links" from being dubbed Queen of Love and Beauty and others to highlight the importance of facts before jumping on the trend.
One user said: "People are really trying to make the case that this 'tradition' Ellie Kemper participated in wasn’t created by the klan or at least klan adjacent?"
Another agreed: "It really is something that Ellie Kemper was the star of a tv show about a woman who leaves a racist cult and tries to rebrand herself while pretending it never happened. No reason why I'm bringing this up of course."
But others were quick to defend her. One said: "I spent ten years of my life in St. Louis (including the time she’s talking about) and I’m familiar with the Veiled Prophet Ball — even knew people who attended it. I’m pretty sure as far as we knew it was just a debutante ball for the society folks."
Another said: "To be accurate, the Veiled Prophet Ball is an event run by classist (and admittedly likely racist) ultra wealthy families in St. Louis and it is quite the stretch to call Ellie a so-called 'KKK princess' based on her selection as queen in 1999."
Every Fourth of July, downtown St. Louis comes alive with music, hot-air balloons, and fireworks, and food for the St Louis Fair, formerly known as the Veiled Prophet Ball until the early 1990s, The Atlantic reports.
It started in 1878 when grain executive and former Confederate cavalryman Charles Slayback called a meeting of local business and civic leaders.
His intention was to form a secret society that would blend the pomp and ritual of a New Orleans Mardi Gras.
It turned into an elaborate ritual where someone from a secret board of local elites would be chosen to anonymously play the role of the Veiled Prophet.
The Veiled Prophet would chose a "Queen of Love and Beauty," which Elliewas selected as at age 19, from among the elite ball attendees with whom he would dance a "Royal Quadrille" before presenting her with an expensive keepsake such as a tiara or pearls.
The fair has been long-associated with its secretive nature and "elitism," as historian Thomas Spencer explained: "The parade and all its pomp was meant to reinforce the values of the elite on the working class of the city," however there is no evidence of a direct link to the KKK.
But a 1878 edition of the Missouri Republican shows a picture of the Veiled Prophet with a striking resemblance to a Klansman.
In the early seventies, the fair was crashed by protesters, the Action Committee to Improve Opportunities for Negroes, campaigning to abolish the ball that "flaunted its wealth in front of the city's poorest residents".
And as was the case for most of the Deep South at the time, racial segregation was rampant and the Veiled Prophet didn't allow Black members to join until 1979, further incensing protestors at the time.
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