Actor dressed up as ‘Orange is the New Black’’s Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren for Halloween in 2013
The Grease Live! star caused controversy this week after it was announced that she would be judging a reality-competition series about activism alongside Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Usher.
Many critics pointed out that Hough was an inappropriate choice to judge the competition after she was photographed wearing blackface in 2013, having dressed up as Uzo Aduba’s Orange is the New Black character Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren.
“Julianne Hough is a judge on The Activist? The same Julianne Hough that did Blackface a few years back? Okay, cool cool cool,” one tweet read.
In an Instagram post shared on Tuesday (14 September), Hough addressed the backlash to both the show and her own actions.
The dancer and actor said that she does “not claim” to be an activist and that the casting of the judges had “missed the mark”.
“The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism,” Hough wrote. “Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind.”
Acknowledging critics who felt that The Activist was “performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism, felt tone-deaf” and compared it to Black Mirror, Hough added that people had been further hurt by learning about her doing blackface for the first time.
“I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree… that I am not qualified to act as a judge,” she wrote.
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“Wearing blackface was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and white body bias that hurt people is something I regret doing to this day… 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 Activist has been created in collaboration between CBS and Global Citizen and will see six activists working together with Hough, Chopra and Usher to bring meaningful change to one of three causes: environment, education, and health.
However, it was branded “gross and cynical” by critics, who claimed that it was a capitalist attempt to monetise activism and pit activists against each other.