Julianne Hough, one of the hosts of the recently announced reality competition series, The Activist, responded to the criticism surrounding it. She will co-host the show with Priyanka Chopra and Usher.
The Activist came under fire for its premise. The show will pit six activists promoting their causes against each other. Their success will be determined by the engagement they get on social media, as well as the assessments of Julianne, Priyanka and Usher.
In a lengthy Instagram post, Julianne said 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.
She added, “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.”
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.”
In the note, Julianne also 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.
“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. I’ve definitely not addressed all the different, valuable feedback about what the show missed and my missteps. I want you to know that I am still listening, because this is a messy and uncomfortable conversation, and I’m committed to being here for all of it,” she added.
Julianne explained why she came on board The Activist and said that she was happy 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,” she elaborated.
Julianne said that she has shared everyone’s concerns ‘with the powers that be’ and said that she believes they will ‘do the right thing moving forward’, for the show as well as 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.
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’m still listening,” she added.