Julianne Hough Responds to Blackface Controversy & ‘Activist’ Backlash

Julianne Hough speaks onstage during the 24th Family Film Awards

Getty Julianne Hough speaks onstage during the 24th Family Film Awards

Former “Dancing With the Stars” professional dancer and judge Julianne Hough has issued a statement regarding the backlash over her new CBS reality competition show “The Activist.” She also addressed the 2013 black face controversy that came up in the comments criticizing her new show. Here is what Hough had to say.


Hough Says She Is ‘Deeply Listening’ To the Criticism

For the past few days, Hough and the others involved in “The Activist” have been under fire by what critics are calling the decision to greenlight a reality show that “undermines everything that true activism is about.”

“The Activist” is a reality competition show in which “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,” according to the CBS press release.

In an Instagram post, Hough wrote that the “last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism.”

Hough’s statement continues:

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 captalistic 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.

She went on to say that she does not claim to be an activist and she understands that “the judging aspect of the show missed the mark.”

“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,” continued Hough. “In doing so, I felt it would help educate, mobilize, and inspire people around the world to get involved in activism because many worth causes need attention, funding, and most importantly, the power to effect real change.”

She pledged to not shy away from this “messy” and “uncomfortable” conversation.

“I’m committed to being here for all of it … 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,” said Hough, adding, “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.”


Hough Also Once Again Addressed Her ‘Poor Choice’ To Wear Blackface

For Halloween 2013, Hough dressed as Uzo Aduba’s character from “Orange Is the New Black,” including wearing dark makeup on her skin that was called blackface. She apologized then in a tweet, and has once again apologized for her “poor choice.”

In her Instagram statement, Hough wrote, “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.”

Hough ended the post by saying, “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.”

The five-week “The Activist” season premieres Friday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on CBS. “Dancing With the Stars” season 30 premieres Monday, September 20, 2021, at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on ABC.

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