The backlash was heavy after The Activist was announced, and at least one of the hosts has come forward with a statement. We previously reported on the competition series that pitted activists against each other in a bid to make an appearance at the next G20 Summit in Rome where they will speak about their causes in front of an audience of global leaders.
The public swiftly took to social media to call out not only the producers but the show’s stars—Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jones, and Julianne Hough—as they were accused of being tone-deaf in this current political climate, capitalizing on activism, ignoring those that that have been doing the groundwork for years, and not featuring any Black women, citing that they have been leading forces in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Hough, particularly, felt the backlash because years ago, she was immersed in a scandal over her Halloween costume. In 2013, the dancer dressed up as Uzo Aduba’s Orange is the New Black character, complete with Bantu knots, the prison orange jumpsuit, and brown makeup. Her Blackface look was abhorred by the masses, and now she has returned with a lengthy statement about her involvement in The Activist.
“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 wrote. “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 important, the power to effect real change.”
“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,” Hough said, also mentioning her previous scandal.
“Wearing Blackface 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,” she stated. “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.”
Usher nor Chopra have publicly acknowledged the controversy.