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Julianne Hough admits she is 'not qualified to act as a judge' for upcoming 'The Activist' show

NBC News logo NBC News 9/15/2021 Wilson Wong
Julianne Hough who is smiling and looking at the camera © Provided by NBC News

Julianne Hough broke her silence Tuesday night following backlash surrounding the upcoming reality competition show, "The Activist," which she is set to co-judge.

The CBS show, which the network announced last week, will pit six activists from around the world against each other in "missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events" to promote health, educational and environmental causes.

Their success, according to CBS, will be measured by online engagement, social metrics and input from the show's hosts: Hough, Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

"The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism," Hough wrote in a lengthy Instagram post Tuesday. "I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind."

The former "Dancing with the Stars" performer acknowledged the criticism levied against the show, including its "performative" premise and how it "totally missed and disrespected the many activists who have been killed, assault, and faced various abuses fighting for their causes."

"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 wrote in her post.

Her reason for joining the show, she added, was "to be a part of something that highlights, and is centered around sharing activists' work on a larger platform."

Since the backlash, Hough said in her post that she has shared the public's concerns with "the powers that be" who she believed "will make the right choice and do the right thing moving forward." She did not specify if there would be any changes to "The Activist" ahead of its premiere, including whether she would step aside as a judge.

Amid public scrutiny, Hough also expressed regret for doing blackface in 2013 when she dressed up for Halloween and darkened her skin to resemble Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren from Netflix's "Orange is the New Black."

"Wearing blackface was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and white body bias that hurt people and is something I regret doing to this day. However, the regret that I live with pales in comparison to the lived experiences of so many," she said.

Moving forward, Hough concluded: "I'm going to continue to listen, unlearn 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."

CBS and Global Citizen, co-producers of the show, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Efforts to reach the show's co-hosts Usher and Chopra Jonas were unsuccessful.

In "The Activist," competitors' ultimate goal will be to advance to the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy, where they will "meet with world leaders in the hopes of securing funding and invaluable awareness for their causes," CBS said.

"The finale episode," CBS said, "will crown 'The Activist' and will feature a musical performance, notable activists, and heads of state from across the globe."

The show is expected to premiere on Oct. 22.

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