The Office sometimes seemed like a documentary, especially in its early years because of the way they shot it so close to the style of that genre. So it’s easy to forget, or it was early on at least, that the characters we saw on screen weren’t actually the people in real life. One of those talents, Ellie Kemper is facing some backlash recently after it was reported that she was part of an organization in her teenage years that may have had some racist background. It stems from her winning the Veiled Prophet Ball back in 1999.
The Veiled Prophet Ball is a yearly event in St. Louis Missouri. The event has now been renamed to Fair Saint Louis. The description of the event and the group is more than a little creepy and dates back almost 150 years now. The general gist is that rich socialites gather for a celebration. Debutantes from the area are walked through by local business magnates until one is finally chosen. About a decade before she appeared on The Office, Ellie Kemper was the winner and crowned the “Queen of Love and Beauty”.
The group that runs the Veiled Prophet Ball has been accused of racist leanings in the past. For starters, the costume of the titular Veiled Prophet has a striking resemblance to the outfits worn by KKK remembers. In fact, the first images of the prophet have the look nearly identical to the white cloaks and pointed hoods of that group. The gathering is meant to bring focus to the *elite* in the St. Louis area. Before she was on The Office, Ellie Kemper was born and raised in the St. Louis vicinity and her family was among the most wealthy in the area.
When it was first begun, the Veiled Prophet Ball was a white-only event and specifically barred African-Americans or Jewish-Americans from attending. These *rules* are no longer in place, but it’s an inauspicious and telling start for the group, making it easy to see 1:1 connections between it and other racist organizations out there. Whether a 19-year-old Ellie Kemper was fully aware of this history before joining isn’t clear. Again, this was well before her time making a name for herself in Hollywood and eventually starring on The Office.
It wouldn’t be until a decade later that Ellie Kemper got her role as Erin Hannon on The Office. She played the innocent and a bit dense secretary who took over for Pam in the wake of the Michael Scott Paper company forming. She started as simply a recurring character in Season 5. but would be part of the main cast for the final four seasons. She was the perfect addition to the cast in her comedic timing and Amelia Bedelia-like misunderstandings around simple tasks.
Following The Office, Ellie Kemper would go on to star in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In it, she plays the titular character who’s escaped a doomsday court in rural Indiana and moves to New York City. The show is all about the adjustment to a totally new life. It’s unclear what this latest reveal about her past does for Ellie Kemper’s career. It’s likely this was just part of her social fabric while growing up and she’s removed herself from that kind of life, having forged her own career in Hollywood. But these kinds of stories sometimes only pick up steam along the way.