Ellie Kemper has broken her silence after photos of her being crowned in a pageant sparked racism claims.
Kemper is best known for her roles in The Office and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Last week, photos of the actress resurfaced showing her being awarded the Veiled Prophet Queen of Love and Beauty at a St Louis pageant when she was 19 years old.
The organisation was founded by a former Confederate officer, and Black and Jewish people were banned from joining until the late 1970s, Buzzfeed reports.
The pictures went viral on social media over the weekend, with users on Twitter comparing Kemper to a "KKK princess". Some pointed out the St Louis organisation was separate from the white supremacist group. However, it was clear several fans of Kemper were offended by the photos.
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Now the star has taken to Instagram to respond to the controversy, saying she was "not aware" of the organisation's past at the time.
"The century-old organisation that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past.
"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," she added.
Kemper made it clear she denounces white supremacy and went on to apologise for her actions in the lengthy statement.
"I want to apologise 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 wrote.
She explained earlier in the statement that she had intended to ignore the criticism, but decided it was better to condemn her past actions.
"There is a natural temptation when you become the subject of internet criticism, to tell yourself that your detractors are getting it all wrong. But at some point last week, I realised that a lot of the forces behind the criticism are forces that I've spent my life supporting and agreeing with."