Julianne Hough is no stranger to reality competition shows as a former professional dancer and judge on Dancing With the Stars.
However, when the news broke that she would be a judge for a new reality show called The Activist, fans began to protest immediately, and the backlash caught her attention.
What is the reality show The Activist?
On September 9, the news hit that The Activist was coming to CBS as a reality competition series.
The show would feature hosts Usher, Priyanka Chopra, and Julianne Hough.
Hough posted on her Instagram that she was serving as a host.
“I’m so excited to announce I will be co-hosting alongside @usher & @priyankachopra on #TheActivist @cbstv where you’re going to meet six incredibly inspirational people paying it forward in this world,” Hough wrote. “Stay tuned!”
The Activist will have six activist contestants compete “to bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment.”
According to the network’s plot description, “The Activist” will see participants “go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts’ input.”
This caused a considerable backlash. Many people felt it was ridiculous that a person wanting to make the world a better place would need to get support from Usher and the TikTok community.
While many people were angry at the show’s idea in general, some brought up Hough’s past where she wore blackface to dress up as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, played by Uzo Aduba on Orange Is the New Black.
Julianne Hough responds to The Activist controversy
Julianne Hough was listening, and she posted a lengthy statement on her Instagram account.
“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 wrote.
She also said she spoke to the “powers that be” about the concerns.
“I’ve shared your concerns as well as my own with the powers that be, who I believe 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. Not just for the show, but for the greater good,” she wrote.
Hough also touched on the controversy from her past when she dressed up as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, with blackface.
“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.
“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 got many responses, some claiming that she was still a hypocrite for signing on to begin with, and others calling out cancel culture in general. However, there were also some less reactionary responses, including one by someone else who had done shameful things in his past.
Mark Wahlberg responded, “This is proof of your work towards emotional intelligence and your pursuit of growth. we can all learn from the way you acknowledge your critics by saying “i’m listening” and “I hear you”. You don’t defend your position. you acknowledge others justifiable concerns. you have my admiration, Jules.”
The Activist premieres on CBS on October 22. Dancing With the Stars Season 30 premieres Monday, September 20, at 8/7c on ABC.