Julianne Hough Shared Concerns About ‘The Activist’ Competition With CBS Following Backlash

·6-min read

“The Activist” judge Julianne Hough says she has shared her “concerns” about the CBS competition series with its producers following backlash to the reality show announced September 9, which is described as featuring “six activists from around the world working to bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment.”

“The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism,” the former “Dancing With the Stars” pro wrote in a statement posted to 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. After the press release announcing The Activist, I heard you say that the show was performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism, felt ton-deaf, like Black Mirror, The Hunger Games, and that the hosts weren’t qualified to assess activism because we are celebrities and not activists. 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.”

According to CBS’ description for the five-week competition, which is set to debut Oct. 22, “activists will compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events aimed at garnering the attention of the world’s most powerful decision-makers, demanding action, now. The competing activists’ success is measured via online engagement, social metrics and hosts’ input. The hosts will guide the activists through their journey, with plenty of surprises from high-profile public figures.”

Hough, who is set to act as co-host and judge of CBS, Global Citizen and Live Nation-produced “The Activist” alongside Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, added: “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.”

TheWrap reached out to CBS, Global Citizen and Hough for clarity on that statement but did not immediately hear back.

“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 part of something that highlights, and is centered around sharing activists’ work on a larger platform,” Hough continued. “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 added: “I do not have all the answers yet. 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. 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.”

Representatives for CBS, Global Citizen and Hough did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment Wednesday.

See Hough’s full statement below.

The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism.

Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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 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.

I do not have all the answers yet. 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.

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.

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