CBS new competition show,The Activist—or America’s Next Top Activist, as it’s hilariously been dubbed online—has been the subject of justifiable critique and concern since the platform made the announcement last week.
As previously reported by The Root, the five-week reality series produced by Global Citizen will feature “six inspiring activists teamed with three high-profile public figures working together to bring meaningful change to one of three vitally important world causes: health, education, and environment.” Activists will reportedly go head-to-head in challenges to “promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts’ input.
The three teams have one ultimate goal: to create impactful movements that amplify their message, drive action, and advance them to the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. There, they will meet with world leaders in the hope of securing funding and awareness for their causes. The team that receives the largest commitment is celebrated as the overall winner at the finale, which will also feature musical performances by some of the world’s most passionate artists.”
Now, per Variety, one of the show’s co-hosts—Dancing With the Stars veteran Julianne Hough—is speaking out in an attempt to address the backlash and explain her reasoning for joining the show in the first place.
In a lengthy post to Instagram, Hough explained:
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 of 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.
She later continued:
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. 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,” Hough concluded.
Hough also took the time to once again apologize for her 2013 Halloween costume, in which she wore blackface to portray Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, played by Uzo Aduba on Orange Is the New Black, noting that it had begun to recirculate after news of her casting on The Activist was made public.
She is the first co-host to make a statement about the show amid the backlash, Usher and Chopra Jonas have yet to publicly comment about the matter.