Julianne Hough Responds to The Activist Backlash: 'I Am Deeply Listening'

·5-min read

Julianne Hough is responding to criticism about her upcoming reality competition series, The Activist.

The series, produced by CBS and Global Citizen, brings together six activists from around the world to work "to bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment." Their success is judged based off of social media engagement through digital media campaigns. Hough serves as a judge on the series, alongside Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

"The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism," Hough wrote on Instagram Tuesday. "Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind."

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The former Dancing with the Stars pro added that some of the feedback she saw about The Activist called the show "performative" and "tone deaf." According to Hough, some said that "the hosts weren't qualified to assess activism" because they are "celebrities and not activists."

cannes 2021 amfar gala
cannes 2021 amfar gala

Getty

"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," Hough continued. "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."

She added, "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."

Hough also once again apologized for dressing up in blackface at a Halloween party in 2013, when she showed up at a Beverly Hills bash as "Crazy Eyes," a character played by Uzo Aduba in the hit Netflix drama Orange Is the New Black.

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"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."

While she acknowledged that she had only scratched the surface of the criticism she's received, she said she wanted her followers to know: "I am still listening because this is a messy and uncomfortable conversation, and I'm committed to being here for all of it."

Julianne Hough, Usher, and Priyanka Chopra
Julianne Hough, Usher, and Priyanka Chopra

getty (3)

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"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," she explained. "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."

Hough said she had elevated people's concerns to "the powers that be," adding that she believes they "have listened."

"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."

She 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."

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CBS, Global Citizen, and the trio of celebrity judges first came under fire for The Activist last week, after the show was announced. The five-week series is still set to premiere at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, on CBS and will be available to stream live and on-demand on Paramount+.

Spokespeople for CBS, Global Citizen, Chopra Jonas, and Usher did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

In a statement to Deadline, a spokesperson for Global Citizen said: "The Activist spotlights individuals who've made it their life's work to change the world for the better, as well as the incredible and often challenging work they do on the ground in their communities. This is not a reality show to trivialize activism. On the contrary, our aim is to support activists everywhere, show the ingenuity and dedication they put into their work, and amplify their causes to an even wider audience."

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