Julianne Hough Addresses 2013 Blackface Controversy in Response to Backlash for The Activist

The dancer, who recently played Sandy in Grease Live!, explained the “original reason” she signed onto the show in the first place. She said she was “really excited” to highlight 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,” she wrote.

Julianne acknowledged that fans thought The Activist was “performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism, felt tone-deaf” and earned comparisons to Black Mirror and The Hunger Games. The Emmy winner reiterated that the hosts weren’t qualified to assess activism “because we are celebrities and not activists.”

She continued, “I heard you say 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.”

After Julianne wore blackface for Halloween eight years ago, her brother Derek Hough told E! News she was “mortified” by the backlash. “She’s so apologetic. She’s so so sorry and I just hope that we can all forgive her and move on,” he said at the time.

Uzo responded to the costume as well, telling E! News in November 2013, “I think maybe it was an unfortunate event, but she apologized and I feel like we can all move on.” 

Social media users resurfaced the offensive photo in recent days, following her casting on the social justice competition. One fan tweeted, “are we just supposed to forget that julianne hough literally did blackface??”

E! News has reached out to reps for Usher and Priyanka Chopra, as well as CBS, for comment.

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