Actress apologises for attending ‘racist, sexist, elitist’ debutante ball as a teenager
Actress and comedian Ellie Kemper has apologised for taking part in a debutante ball as a teenager, saying the event had an “unquestionably racist, sexist and elitist past” and that “ignorance is no excuse”.
The star, who is best known for roles in Bridesmaids, The Office (US) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, has shared a lengthy apology on Instagram after finding herself trending on Twitter over the issue.
Kemper was 19 when she appeared at the Veiled Prophet Ball in St Louis, Missouri, in 1999, and was reportedly crowned “Queen of Love and Beauty”.
The event was founded in 1878 by wealthy, white elites and barred black and Jewish people from taking part, according to The Atlantic magazine.
Kemper, now 41, said in her statement that she was unaware of the event’s history but did not want to make excuses.
“When I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown,” she said. “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. I unequivocally deplore, denounce, and reject white supremacy.
“At the same time, I acknowledge that because of my race and my privilege, I am the beneficiary of a system that has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards.”
Kemper went on to say that she believes “strongly in the values of kindness, integrity, and inclusiveness” and that she tries to live her life “in accordance with these values”.
The actress said that when facing criticism online there can often be a “natural temptation” to tell yourself that “your detractors are getting it all wrong,” but that she knew she needed to apologise.
She continued: “If my experience is an indication that organisations and institutions with pasts that fall short of these beliefs should be held to account, then I have to see this experience in a positive light.
“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 had found herself at the centre of a Twitter debate after a photo at the gala appeared online. Many users had pointed out her “privileged” upbringing and that she has come from a family of “old money”.
Twitter user @WB_Baskerville, who sparked the debate with a tweet at the end of May, responded to Kemper’s statement.
“I have made the decision to accept Ellie’s apology,” they posted. “Everyone leave her alone now.”
Russell Brand ‘ripped holes in woman’s tights’ and ‘refused to call her taxi until she performed a sex act’
A woman has told Sky News that Russell Brand made her feel “vulnerable and intimidated” – and alleges he refused to call her a taxi until she performed a sex act.
It comes as new allegations continue to emerge about the comedian’s behaviour, as another organisation cut ties with him.
Sarah, whose name has been changed, claims she met Russell Brand on an aeroplane where he “seemed friendly and charming”.
He invited her for breakfast and a walk after the flight and she agreed to travel in his limousine.
“He changed,” she says, “like he wasn’t friendly and charming in the limo. He was aggressive and I felt very vulnerable and intimidated.”
She describes Brand “jumping” on her.
“The limo driver was turning around a few times because I was saying no, but he ripped a hole – more than one hole – in the tights that I was wearing,” she says.
Sarah says they drove straight to Brand’s house where they had consensual sex.
“I mean, it was consensual. I didn’t say no,” she said, “but I feel like there’s a fine line between being forced and being coerced, you know, like being in a situation where the only way out is just to get it over and done with and leave.”
She claims Brand then refused to call her a taxi until she performed oral sex on him.
“I wanted to leave and I said, ‘I need to get a taxi’. And he said, ‘I’m not going to get you a taxi until you do this’, which was a sex act.”
She describes feeling “really trapped” and wanting to “scale that house.”
Sky News has reached out to Russell Brand’s representatives for comment.
‘No, no, no’
The BBC, meanwhile, has said it is looking into new allegations by another woman who claimed he exposed himself to her.
The woman, whom the BBC is naming ‘Olivia’, said she was working in the same building as Brand 15 years ago in Los Angeles when the incident happened.
She claims she answered the door to Brand and his team, and when she went into the bathroom she noticed he was behind her.
Speaking to the BBC, she claims Brand said he was going to have sex with her, to which she replied “no, you’re not”.
Olivia then alleges Brand showed her his genitals to which she responded with “no, no, no”.
She says she returned to her desk afterwards and texted a BBC employee in the office about what had happened.
The employee told her that he knew because Brand was talking about it in the studio, on Radio 2.
In the broadcast, which aired on 21 June 2008, Brand is heard speaking to his co-presenter Matt Morgan about it.
Morgan said: “[It’s been] 25 minutes since he showed his w**** to a lady,” and referred to “the receptionist”.
Brand is apparently heard laughing in the background.
According to the BBC report, Olivia never made a complaint, but management was informed in 2019 and no formal action was taken.
The BBC said it was sorry to hear the allegations and would investigate them as part of a review into Brand’s time at the BBC.
In a statement reported on BBC News, Matt Morgan said: “I was not aware until now of the nature of this encounter.
“I’ve expressed my regrets now looking back at the impact of the show and this is a further example.
“The recent coverage has been very distressing to read and I reiterate my absolute condemnation of any form of the mistreatment of women.”
Comedian Nish Kumar has also spoken out, on his Pod Save The UK podcast, describing the presence of alleged sexual predators as an “open secret” on the comedy scene.
Brand, 48, has previously been accused of rape, sexual assault and abuse by four other women between 2006 and 2013.
He has denied all the claims – saying that his relationships have always been consensual.
The accusations were first reported by the Sunday Times, The Times, and Channel 4’s Dispatches earlier this month.
The Metropolitan Police subsequently said it had received a sexual assault allegation against Brand dating back to 2003.
As a result, a number of organisations have now cut ties with the presenter.
The latest to end its association with Brand is the Treasures Foundation, which said it had been “extremely saddened” by the allegations.
In a statement, the charity said it was “founded on Christian principles” and is “totally committed to advocating for the voices of women”.
It continues: “As a result of the recent media investigation into Russell Brand, we have made the decision to no longer receive any support from Mr Brand, and the Stay Free Foundation.
“Moving forward our focus remains on the women under our care.”
Comedian Nish Kumar says presence of sexual predators in industry is ‘open secret’ following Russell Brand allegations
Nish Kumar says young women have been advised to steer clear of dressing rooms used by ‘predators’ still working on the comedy scene.
The comedian also said the knowledge of Russell Brand‘s alleged abuse against young women was “a well-known open secret on the comedy circuit” and he thinks it’s likely “there’s more allegations to come”.
Brand has been accused of rape, sexual assault and abuse and sexual misconduct by a number of women – claims he vehemently denies.
Speaking on his Pod Save The UK podcast, Kumar said: “This stuff is still happening, there are still people working in comedy who are the subject of open secrets.
“There are still people who work in comedy that we can’t name because again, of the threat of lawsuits. And there are still people working in comedy who people will say, ‘Oh, we don’t send young women into their dressing room’.”
The 38-year-old added: “Now at that stage for me, you should be sacked from that job. If you can’t have someone be around young women, they have no place in any kind of workplace.
“The tolerance of it is something that we are going to have to actually have a reckoning with.”
Kumar, who previously hosted The Mash Report and Late Night Mash – said he first heard about Brand’s alleged wrongdoings in mid-2017, and that “from that point onwards it was well known”.
He said it went on to be discussed by multiple comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2018.
However, he said the “very specific and serious allegation” against Brand that he had first been made aware of was not one that was discussed in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme which aired at the weekend.
For that reason, Kumar said he thinks “it is possible that there’s more allegations to come”.
Pointing to Brand’s diminishing TV work in the UK after 2019, Kumar said: “That’s simply because increasingly people were just not willing to work with him. Everyone was afraid to talk about it because of the threat of lawsuits, you know?
“And so, the only power people had was to withdraw participation from shows involving Russell Brand.”
Abuse of power is an industry wide problem
He said as a comedian working in the industry, he too felt a sense of “guilt” and “complicity”.
Kumar said: “Watching it as a cisgendered, heterosexual male comedian, you feel a certain sense of guilt and a certain sense of complicity because you’ve been working with production companies and producers who are providing an infrastructure that allows predators to thrive.”
He said the “indulgence” of top talent was “an issue that cuts across all of the industries,” and which needed to be addressed.
Kumar concluded: “The only people to come out of this with anything approaching any credibility are the victims who have been brave enough to step forward and the journalists who have worked extremely hard to produce rigorous pieces of journalism so that they could get around the threats of a very powerful man’s lawyers.”
Brand, 48, was initially accused of rape, sexual assault and abuse by four women with the alleged offences taking place between 2006 and 2013.
The comedian and presenter denies the claims, and says all his relationships have been consensual.
Following the report by the Sunday Times, The Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches, two further women have come forward with allegations against Brand.
The Metropolitan Police says it has received an allegation of sexual assault against him dating back to 2003.
The BBC also says it is looking into allegations by a woman who claims Brand exposed himself to her and then laughed about it afterwards on his Radio 2 show.
In the wake of the claims, numerous companies have cut ties with Brand including his management company, a women’s charity and several of his YouTube sponsors.
Sky News has approached Russell Brand for comment.
Angus Cloud: Euphoria star’s cause of death revealed as accidental overdose
Euphoria actor Angus Cloud died from an accidental overdose from a lethal combination of drugs, a California coroner’s report has found.
The 25-year-old was found unresponsive at his family home in Oakland in July.
Cloud died of a lethal mix of methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine and benzodiazepines, the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau confirmed to Sky News’ partner network NBC News.
Following his death, Cloud’s mother said on social media that she believed her son “did not intend to end his life,” and said he had been talking about his plans for himself and his family in the hours before he died.
His family also spoke about his battles with mental health, saying, “we hope that his passing can be a reminder to others that they are not alone and should not fight this on their own in silence”.
The actor had been mourning the death of his own father from mesothelioma (a type of cancer) and had travelled to Ireland to bury him the week before his death.
Cloud was best known for playing the drug dealer Fezco opposite Zendaya on hit teen drama show Euphoria.
He was working in a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, when he was scouted for his first acting role by Euphoria’s casting director.
Following his death, Euphoria creator Sam Levinson said: “There was no one quite like Angus. He was too special, too talented and way too young to leave us so soon. He also struggled, like many of us, with addiction and depression.
“I hope he knew how many hearts he touched. I loved him. I always will. Rest in peace and God Bless his family.”
:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.
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