Julianne Hough Responds to The Activist Backlash

Julianne Hough  addresses criticism that she is not qualify to be a judge in her upcoming reality competition series, The Activist. She will co-host the show with celebrities like Priyanka Chopra and Usher.

The five-week series which will be available to stream live and on-demand on Paramount, is still set to premiering at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, on CBS.

The Activist will have three celebrity hosts - Priyanka Chopra, Julianne Hough and Usher.
The Activist Judges, Julianne Houg- left, Priyanka Chopra-center and Usher-right.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Julianne wrote that the backlash against The Activist was a ‘powerful demonstration of real-time activism’. “After the press release announcing The Activist, I heard you say that the show was performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism, felt tone-deaf, like Black Mirror, The Hunger Games, and that the hosts weren’t qualified to assess activism because we are celebrities and not activists,” she wrote.

“I heard you say that 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.

Julianne also addressed criticism that the competition element of The Activist ‘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 wrote, “And because of all 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 wrote in a note, where she addressed the controversy caused by her Halloween costume in 2013, when she darkened her skin to resemble Orange Is The New Black character Crazy Eyes. “On top of all this, many people are just becoming aware that I wore blackface in 2013, which only further added insult to injury. 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,” she wrote.

Julianne 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.”

“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.”

“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 added.

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.”

The series, produced by CBS and Global Citizen, brings together six activists from around the world to team up as they “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events” in order “to bring meaningful change to one of three basic universal causes: health, education and the environment.” Their success will be determined by the engagement they get on social media, and the assessments of Julianne, Priyanka and Usher.