Julianne Hough Responded to Backlash Surrounding Her New Show 'The Activist'
Julianne Hough took to Instagram on Tuesday to address recent backlash surrounding her new reality competition series, The Activist.
Last week, news broke that Hough, actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and singer Usher would serve as judges on The Activist. The series would bring six activists together to initiate "meaningful change to one of three vitally important world causes: health, education, and environment," according to Deadline. The activists would also participate in challenges with "their success being measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts' input," reported Deadline.
Following last week's announcement, The Activist was soon met with criticism online, with the series being called "performative" and "tone-deaf" on social media. Hough addressed the outrage Tuesday in a lengthy statement on Instagram. "The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism," began Hough. "Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind."
Hough said on Instagram that some questioned the qualifications of the judges to "assess activism," noting they're "celebrities and not activists." "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 cause," she continued Tuesday. "And because of all this, there is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt."
The 33-year-old added on Instagram that she did not "claim to be an activist" and "wholeheartedly" agrees "that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that [she is] not qualified to act as a judge."
Hough then addressed a 2013 controversy, in which she wore blackface for Halloween while dressing up as Uzo Aduba's character, Crazy Eyes, from Orange Is the New Black. "On top of all this, many people are just becoming aware that I wore blackface in 2013, which only further added insult to injury," she continued Tuesday on Instagram. "Wearing blackface was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and white body bias that hurt people and is something that I regret doing to this day. 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."
Hough added Tuesday that she is "still listening because this is a messy and uncomfortable conversation, and I'm committed to being here for all of it." Hough also said that she expressed her concerns about the series "with the powers that be."
"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. Not just for the show but for the greater good," wrote Hough on Instagram. "I'm going to continue to listen, unlearn, learn and take the time to be fully present with everything 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."
In a joint statement Wednesday to Shape, CBS, Global Citizen, and Live Nation, announced that The Activist announced the change of format: "The Activist was designed to show a wide audience the passion, long hours, and ingenuity that activists put into changing the world, hopefully inspiring others to do the same. However, it has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day. The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort," the statement read.
"As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special (air date to be announced). It will showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in. Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show," the statement continued. "Activists and community leaders around the world work every day, often without fanfare, to advance protections for people, communities, and our planet. We hope that by showcasing their work we will inspire more people to become more involved in addressing the world's most pressing issues. We look forward to highlighting the mission and lives of each of these incredible people."
Global Citizen also told Shape in a statement: "Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong. It is our responsibility to use this platform in the most effective way to realize change and elevate the incredible activists dedicating their lives to progress all around the world."