Julianne Hough issued an apology once again after photos of her 2013 Halloween costume – which used blackface – resurfaced amid backlash from her new competition show The Activist.
In what’s become a controversial decision by CBS, Julianne Hough was announced to become a host on their latest series, The Activist, a reality competition in which six activists from around the world would compete in challenges meant to go toward solving global crises such as healthcare, education, and climate change.
After the network received backlash for the idea of activists competing in “performative” and “tone-deaf challenges,” photos of host Julianne Hough appeared on social media. In one, the actress is wearing blackface as part of a Halloween costume.
Dressing up as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in 2013 from the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, Julianne Hough was called out as another failure of The Activist series pitch, with many fans questioning why someone with such a past was even asked to host the show.
“Wearing black face was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and my own white body bias that hurt people and is something I regret doing to this day,” Julianne Hough said in a lengthy Instagram post. “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.”
“The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism,” she said. “Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind.”
Following criticism, CBS announced that the show would be “reimagined” as a documentary in partnership with Global Citizen, the international advocacy organization. Priyanka Chopra and Usher were also signed on as judges for The Activist show, where they were going to preside over digital campaigns and community missions designed to pit the activists against one another.
“I’m confused: Is this an advanced Marxist critique to expose how competition for money and attention pits activists against each other and undermines deep change?,” author and climate justice professor Naomi Klien wrote on Twitter. “Or just the end of the world?”
In a statement released by CBS and Global Citizen, they said that “Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition,” apologizing to the activists, admitting that they “got it wrong.”
“The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort,” a statement from CBS and Global Citizen read. The six activists involved will now be part of a showcase highlighting their work, with no competition element. Each activist will also be awarded a cash grant to the organization of their choice.
“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 Hough wrote on Instagram. “I also heard you say that trying to value one cause over another felt like the Oppression Olympics.”
She also stated that she felt “not qualified” to be a judge, despite initially signing on to the project, and that, “on top of this, many people are just becoming aware that I wore blackface in 2013, which only further added insult to injury.”
Julianne Hough had left her role on the judging panel of Dancing with the Stars to work on The Activist, and her brother Derek had taken her place. Fans had wanted Julianne back on the show, but now they seem to be revoking that sentiment.