Julianne Hough has responded to backlash regarding her upcoming reality series, The Activist, which also features Priyanka Chopra and Usher as judges. Produced by CBS and Global Citizen, the series brings together six activists from around the world who want to bring meaningful change to universal causes, including health, education and the environment. Their success will be judged on the basis of their social media campaigns. The premise of the show itself was slammed and labelled as insensitive, and tone-deaf.
On Tuesday, Julianne put out an Instagram post, responding to the heavy backlash. “The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism. Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind.” She also mentioned some of the criticism she received about The Activist, called the show “performative” and “tone deaf.” According to Julianne, some said that “the hosts weren’t qualified to assess activism” because they are “celebrities and not activists.”
“I heard you say there was hypocrisy in the show because at the root of activism is a fight against capitalism and the trauma that it causes so many people and that the show itself felt like a shiny capitalistic endeavor,” she added. “I also heard you say that trying to value one cause over another felt like the Oppression Olympics and totally missed and disrespected the many activists who have been killed, assaulted and faced various abuses fighting for their causes.”
Julianne continued, “And because of this, there is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt. I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge.”
She also addressed the blackface controversy in 2013, where she showed up as a Beverly Hills bash as “Crazy Eyes,” a character played by Uzo Aduba in the drama, Orange Is The New Black. “Wearing blackface was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and my own white body bias that hurt people and is something I regret doing to this day,” she wrote. “However, the regret that I live with pales in comparison to the lived experiences of so many. My commitment has been to reflect and act differently. Not perfectly, but hopefully with a more developed understanding that racism and white supremacy is harmful to ALL people,” she said.
Admitting that she had only skimmed the surface of the criticism she had received, she added, “I am still listening because this is a messy and uncomfortable conversation, and I’m committed to being here for all of it.”
Explaining the ‘real reason’ she signed the show, she wrote, “It feels important for me to share that the original reason I signed on to this show was because I was really excited to be a part of something that highlights, and is centered around sharing activists’ work on a larger platform. In doing so, I felt it would help educate, mobilize, and inspire people around the world to get involved in activism because many worthy causes need attention, funding, and most importantly the power to effect real change.”
“I have faith and confidence in the beautiful people that I’ve worked with will make the right choice and do the right thing moving forward,” she wrote. “Not just for the show, but for the greater good. I’m going to continue to listen, unlearn, learn and take the time to be fully present with everything that you have all shared because I don’t want to just react. I want to digest, understand and respond in a way that is authentic and aligned with the woman I am becoming.”
Julianne Hough concluded, “I also understand that there is no response that I could share that would make everyone happy, however, I want you to know that this is a conversation and I am still listening.”