Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper has apologised for attending a debutante ball as a teenager after the event's racist past came to light.
When she was 19, the actress was crowned the "Queen of Love and Beauty" at the Veiled Prophet Ball in her home state of Missouri.
Social media users criticised Kemper last week, as the Veiled Prophet Organization was originally co-founded more than a century ago in St. Louis by former Confederate Army officer Charles E. Slayback. Organisers only permitted white contestants to participate until 1979.
In an apology statement posted on Instagram on Monday, the 41-year-old explained that she was unaware of the ball's racist associations but admitted "ignorance is no excuse".
"Hi guys, when I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown," she wrote. "The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist and elitist past. I was not aware of the 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 state that although she had been tempted to ignore "internet criticism" she was taking it on board as it came from "forces that I've spent my life supporting and agreeing with".
Saying sorry to fans, The Office star added: "I want to apologize 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."
In a statement to People magazine following the scandal, officials at the Veiled Prophet Organization claimed that they "absolutely reject racism" and are "dedicated to civic progress, economic contributions and charitable causes" in St. Louis.