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.”
Kim Kardashian leaves tag on Balenciaga dress at Paris Fashion Show event
Kim Kardashian turned heads at a Paris Fashion Week event on Sunday with a possible fashion faux-pas – or did she mean it?
The reality TV star and businesswoman wore a black dress to a Balenciaga show in the French capital with the tag still hanging from the back.
The word Balenciaga was clearly visible as she walked by and posed for photographers, with the tag appearing to swing slightly and hit her back.
She shared an Instagram story showing the tag still attached to the back of the lace turtleneck outfit, which had long sleeves that covered beyond her hand.
Kardashian captioned the video with text saying: “It’s always Balenciaga for me.”
The tag then appeared to be absent once she was inside the venue.
The models for the Autumn-Winter 2024-2025 season show also walked the runways with clothing that had rectangle labels tied to strings.
Kardashian checked out the new looks alongside tennis legend Serena Williams, who wore a blue fur-style coat and a black dress.
The reality star, 43, is known for her long association with the brand, and walked her first Paris couture show with Balenciaga in July 2022.
In 2021, she wore a full-length Balenciaga black outfit completely covering her face at the Met Gala.
Tracy-Ann Oberman: Death threats against Jewish actress see security ramped up at West End theatre
Actress Tracy-Ann Oberman is used to her work speaking for itself.
But at a time when she’s arguably hitting her creative stride, winning critical acclaim in the West End, the actress has also had to deal with death threats – a response to her challenging antisemitism she sees online.
She said: “My identity has never felt a huge part of my creative life, but in recent years, particularly in the arts world, which likes to see itself as progressive and inclusive, I think I’ve ended up becoming a spokesperson for many Jewish people and allies in the arts who have often felt like a lone voice, who have felt intimidated and often felt frightened to talk about their identity. And I don’t think that is right.”
Sky News caught up with Oberman during rehearsals of a new musical based on a BBC radio play she wrote: Bette And Joan And Baby Jane.
It is an imagining of the backstage bitterness between Hollywood legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in the 1960s during the making of the film Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
She said: “I wanted to write something about women getting to 50 and losing their power in the entertainment industry.
“I don’t think we should hurtle towards our forties thinking ‘Oh, you know, where do we stand in the creative industry and in the world?’
“I think we’re coming into a duchess era, I think it’s possible to do anything and I’d like to think I’m giving hope to people for that.”
At this stage in her career, she’s certainly impressing theatre critics with her role in the West End reinvention of Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice.
Starring as a female Shylock, based, she says, on her own grandmother, the play has been re-set in 1930s London as fascism sweeps across Europe.
In the traditional version, Shylock is a Venetian Jewish moneylender and the play’s principal villain.
“By putting a female shylock at the centre of that it ties in misogyny and racism against all minorities,” she explained.
But while she’s enjoying a creatively fruitful moment in her career, there’s also the threat to her life.
In response, security at the Criterion Theatre has been ramped up.
Oberman said: “You know, we’re living in very febrile times… I don’t understand how we’re living in a time where a Jewish actress who is putting on a production of The Merchant Of Venice is needing to have all this security, it just feels extraordinary.”
Oberman thinks her industry hasn’t done enough to challenge it.
She said: “The industry should take note because if it was happening to other minorities, I’d like to think that people would be horrified.”
Bette And Joan And Baby Jane: The Musical is being staged at JW3 on 4 March, with performances at 4pm and 7.30pm.
The Merchant Of Venice 1936 continues its West End run at the Criterion Theatre, London, until 23 March.
Raye smashes Brits record for most wins in one year as Kylie Minogue closes show after taking global icon gong
Raye has smashed the record for the most Brit awards won in any one year – taking home six prizes including best song, best artist and best album.
The star was visibly emotional as she collected the statuette for best album for her debut, My 21st Century Blues, saying: “You just don’t understand what this means to me.”
She was joined by her grandma, Agatha, on stage, and apologised as she broke down in tears, joking: “I’m ugly crying on national television.”
The star told the crowd that her middle name is also Agatha, and added: “My grandma is awake ’til 3am praying for me and my beautiful sisters.”
Raye, 26, also won the awards for best R&B act, best new artist, and songwriter of the year – a gong that was announced ahead of the ceremony – and performed a medley of her songs including Ice Cream Man and Escapism during the show.
It marks an incredible journey for the London-born singer, who called out her former label in 2021 and went on to release her debut album on her own terms as an independent star.
She topped the charts at the start of 2023 and was also shortlisted for the prestigious Mercury Prize last year – now she is a Brits record-breaker. Speaking to Sky News on the red carpet ahead of the show, she described everything that has happened to her in the last few years as “a miracle”.
Raye only lost out on one prize – best pop act, which went to Dua Lipa.
Kylie Minogue – truly a global icon
The show was closed by Kylie Minogue, who performed a medley of her hits with an array of costume changes – starting with 2023 smash Padam Padam and including Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, Love At First Sight and All The Lovers – after being named this year’s global icon.
Her award was announced with a look back at her five-decade spanning career, taking in her journey from I Should Be So Lucky to Padam Padam, via Can’t Get You Out Of My Heard and an array of her other hits.
Accepting her prize, the Australian star paid tribute to Raye’s achievement, saying: “I’m just going to be sobbing with Raye – Raye you did that.”
Minogue told the audience that there is still “a part of me that’s the 14-year-old girl in the room dreaming of making music”.
Talking to music students in the room, she said: “I just feel your promise and I’m so excited for you.”
“I love you, and I will always love you, you have my heart,” the icon added.
Elsewhere, Jungle were named group of the year, while in the other genre categories, which are voted for by the public, Bring Me The Horizon took home the best alternative/rock act award, Casisdead won best hip-hop/grime/rap act, and Calvin Harris was this year’s dance act winner.
In the international categories, Miley Cyrus’s Flowers was named best song, boygenius were named best group, and SZA was named best artist.
The full list of awards won by Raye (and some by other stars)
Album of the year – Raye, My 21st Century Blues
Artist of the year – Raye
Song of the year – Raye ft 070 Shake, Escapism
Best new artist – Raye
R&B act – Raye
Songwriter of the year – Raye
Group of the year – Jungle
International artist of the year – SZA
International group of the year – boygenius
International song of the year – Miley Cyrus, Flowers
Alternative/ rock act – Bring Me The Horizon
Hip-hop/ grime/ rap act – Casisdead
Dance act – Calvin Harris
Pop act – Dua Lipa
Producer of the year – Chase & Status
Brits global icon – Kylie Minogue
Brits rising star – The Last Dinner Party
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