The series drew backlash since its announcement for its gimmick of pitting activists against each other in a competition that will see the former “Dancing with the Stars” pro judge whether or not a group of activists made any meaningful change along with fellow celebrities Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
As People notes, the show has been accused of commodifying activism by measuring success by way of celebrities’ opinions as well the engagement on the contestants’ respective social media campaigns that address three pressing causes — health, education and the environment.
On Tuesday, Hough took to her Instagram where she dropped a five-page statement on the matter acknowledging the feedback the show has been getting.
“The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism,” she began. “Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind.”
The star went on to acknowledge complaints that the show is promoting performative, pseudo-activism and that it was “tone-deaf.”
“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 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.”
The star acknowledged that she too does not believe she is qualified to judge activism given that she is not an activist herself. However, she stopped short of mentioning any kind of change to her role in the project.
Instead, she moved on to acknowledge the fact that, because of the controversy, many people are discovering for the first time that she wore blackface in 2013 at a costume party in which she dressed as Uzo Aduba’s “Crazy Eyes” character from “Orange Is The New Black.”
“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.”
The star concluded her message by noting that it was important to her for people to understand that she signed on to do the show in the hopes that it could help her promote activism.
“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.”
Her comments echo those made by “The Activist”s producing partner Global Citizen in a statement to Deadline.
“‘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.”
Hough concluded her lengthy statement by promising her followers that she is “still listening” and that she brought people’s criticism to the minds behind the show. However, she did not announce any change in its format or whether one is forthcoming.
Julianne Hough responds to critics calling her new show ‘The Activist’ ‘tone-deaf’ and ‘performative’