Ellie Kemper and her publicist are the involuntary stars of Twitter this week!
The 41-year-old actress, who is best known for her roles in The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (or UnbreaKKKable KKKimmy Schmidt) became a top trending topic on Twitter (or as folks now call it, the “Twitter main character”). Unfortunately, unlike the silly show’s theme song says, it was the opposite of a miracle—it’s a curse. The curse of white supremacy!
It all started this weekend when Twitter user @HereIsMySpout posted a thread with the leading sentence, “Ellie Kemper the actress who played Erin Hannon on The Office and starred in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been outed as a KKK Princess.”
Oop! Not Ellie KKKemper! Tell us more!
Well, apparently the rabbit hole was opened when it became apparent that there are basically “Klan Balls” in Kemper’s native St. Louis, Mo. They’re called Veiled Prophet Balls, and they were historically exclusive to elite white folks. According to Newsweek, African Americans were eventually allowed to join in 1979 after protest...but...why would we want to???
Here’s more information about the balls—which were part of a larger celebration in St. Louis—via The Atlantic’s Scott Beauchamp:
Held annually every Fourth of July, usually in downtown St. Louis, Fair St. Louis is a festival that includes food, music, hot-air balloons, and fireworks. Touted as “America’s Biggest Birthday Party”, it’s basically just a fun excuse to enjoy the usually hot and humid St. Louis Fourth of Julys with friends and family. This summer, due to construction along the Mississippi riverfront, the fair was held in Forest Park, a jewel of a turn-of-the-century public park built for the 1904 World’s Fair.
Attaching Fair St. Louis to these monuments of St. Louis’ former grandeur, the Gateway Arch and Forest Park, is fun and completely in the spirit of civic celebration, but also overshadows the dark and sordid history of the fair itself. Until the early ’90s I knew Fair Saint Louis by its older name, the VP Fair. VP stands for “Veiled Prophet”, and the name of the fair wasn’t officially changed to Fair Saint Louis until 1992.
Another Twitter user @hannastasia even posted a newspaper clipping with Kemper’s smiling face (the same unassuming white girl smile she flashes on the show!) next to the headline, “Freshman, 19, at Princeton U. is new Veiled Prophet Queen.”
Naturally, the most apt response to all of this mess is encapsulated in this gif. Also, this gif. Yes, Titus Andromedon (portrayed by Tituss Burgess) said it best:
“What white nonsense is this?!”
I’m not going to be disingenuous for Twitter engagement and say I never liked a show after controversy surrounds it—I loved the show and was entertained by the performances. What I will say is that I’ve always held the belief that Burgess quickly emerged as the true star of the show. Fans immediately campaigned for a spinoff—which we never got, much to our collective chagrin.
As for what the traditional ball looks like today, Newsweek further reports:
The ball continues to be held in December of each year, while the associated parade now takes place over the Fourth of July weekend.
Far removed from its beginnings, said to have included floats featuring racist caricatures of different ethnic groups, the fair now looks like any other celebration of all things Americana, including fireworks, abundant food and music.
Racism! It’s alive, dammit! Given the premise of Kimmy Schmidt—the main character emerges into a new decade in NYC after years in a doomsday cult—now I’m sitting here wondering if Kemper’s real life provided some inspiration. Since we don’t know exactly how Kemper reflects on her teenage prejudice princess pastime...The Root has reached out to her representatives and are awaiting a response.