‘Poor Choice Based on My Own White Privilege’: Julianne Hough Responds to Resurfaced Black Face Photo Amid Backlash Over Forthcoming ‘Activism’ Reality Series

Backlash ensued almost immediately following CBS’s announcement of its new reality competition series “The Activist.” Now, one of the show’s hosts is addressing her previous use of blackface that had many critics further questioning her involvement in the show.

In 2013, Julianne Hough sparked outrage online when she darkened her skin to portray “Orange Is the New Black” fictional character Crazy Eyes, played by actress Uzo Aduba. 

Julianne Hough attends the 24th Family Film Awards at Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City on March 24, 2021, in Universal City, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

In a lengthy statement posted to her Instagram page on Monday, Sept. 15, the “Dancing with the Stars” two-time winner addressed those photos, stating, “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.” 

Julianne Hough responds to resurfaced blackface photo amid backlash over forthcoming ‘activism’ reality series. Photo: @jules Hough/Instagram

The 33-year-old continued, “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 professional dancer went on to explain that she acknowledged she hadn’t “addressed all the different, valuable feedback about what the show missed and my missteps.” But, she added, “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.”

Julianne Hough responds to resurfaced blackface photo amid backlash over forthcoming ‘activism’ reality series. Photo: @jules Hough/Instagram

Though many supported Hough, others called the whole ordeal classless, with criticism of the show coming from one Instagram user who wrote, “I mean honestly, this sounds like the stupidest show idea to date.” The person later questioned the show’s end goal. According to the press release, participants’ success is contingent on online engagement. Their goal is to advance to the G-20 Summit in Rome. 

“Pitting causes against each other for likes? There’s no money to help fund the causes at the end? It’s just getting one persons voice loud enough so that some decision maker might notice?” wrote a social media user. “So unfortunate, especially to those actually doing stuff at the grassroots level.”

That particular fan didn’t appear to place any blame on the reality star, stating “who would turn down a paycheque,” but noted, “this show’s concept just seems so classless.”

As previously reported, Hough is set to co-host CBS’s new show titled “The Activist” alongside Grammy Award winner Usher and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas. The show is described as “combining philanthropy and entertainment” by the network executive vice president, Specials, Music, Live Events, and Alternative Programming Jack Sussman. 

However, many people on social media felt it was performative. Other critics felt the show took away from real activists who risk everything, and sometimes even their lives every day in their fields for their respective causes. 

“The Activist” is set to premiere on CBS on Oct. 22. 

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