After CBS announced an upcoming 5 week reality competition series called The Activist that will feature activists competing to promote and raise funds for their various causes, activists and critics immediately created a backlash. Many felt activism shouldn’t be reduced to merely capitalistic entertainment for the masses.
Critics were particularly miffed that CBS chose Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Julianne Hough to sit on the judges panel. These are celebrities who have little experience with activism. Mostly, they previously sat on talent competition panels.
But Julianne in particular, caught the critics ire because of her iffy past. In particular, people raked the Dancing with the Stars and former America’s Got Talent judge over the coals for donning blackface in 2013. At the time, she darkened her complexion in an ill-conceived Halloween costume, dressing up as “Crazy Eyes” (Uzo Aduba) from the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.
On Tuesday (Sept 14) Juliane responded to the backlash in a lengthy 4 page Instagram post.
Julianne called the past few days of criticism a “powerful demonstration of real time activism.” She promised that she is listening “with an open heart and mind.”
After acknowledging the criticism that “the show was performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism and felt tone deaf…” she also acknowledged the critics charges of hypocrisy 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 acknowledged that she is not qualified to be a judge
Julianne stressed that she does not “claim to be an activist” and she “wholeheartedly” agrees that the “judging aspect of the show missed the mark.” She acknowledged that that she is not “qualified to act as a judge.”
And then she addressed the 2013 blackface incident, and apologized for it again, calling it a “poor choice based on my own white privilege and white body bias.”
She stated that initially, she was eager to participate in the show to “be a part of something that highlights, and is centered around sharing activists’ work on a larger platform.”
Julianne also stated that she shared her concerns with “the powers that be'” and will “continue to listen, unlearn, learn and take the time to be fully present with everything that you all shared.”
She also insisted that she understood that there is no reaction on her part that will make everyone happy.
Julianne is not stepping away from the project, nor does she offer any changes or solutions for folks who are unhappy with The Activist concept.
Already, the show is off to a terrible start. It does seem gimmicky, like an attempt to hop on the backs of various movements for entertainment purposes. At least, it’s only a five week limited series. If it’s a disaster, it will be over quick.
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