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Julianne Hough Says The Activist Controversy Gave Her 'More of a Fire to Focus' on Doing Right

·2-min read
Julianne Hough attends the EMA Awards Gala sponsored by Beyond Meat, H&M Foundation, Montage International, and Toyota on October 16, 2021 in Van Nuys, California.
Julianne Hough attends the EMA Awards Gala sponsored by Beyond Meat, H&M Foundation, Montage International, and Toyota on October 16, 2021 in Van Nuys, California.

Jesse Grant/Getty

Julianne Hough has learned a lot in the wake of the Activist controversy.

Speaking with PEOPLE at the Environmental Media Association Awards at Gearbox LA on Saturday, the 33-year-old star said the backlash over the proposed reality program, which she was poised to judge, gave her "more of a fire to focus on the things that need attention."

"I think the greatest thing that I learned is to listen to what's happening, to gather information and to really try to learn," the Dancing with the Stars alum explained. "I think that's the greatest thing you can do is to just learn and to grow and to be open to different perspectives."

RELATED: Julianne Hough Responds to The Activist Backlash: 'I Am Deeply Listening'

Originally, The Activist was designed as a competition-based show where six activists would battle each other in an effort to "bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment," per CBS. Hough was slated to judge the show alongside Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas while measuring contestants' success on social media engagement.

Julianne Hough, Usher, and Priyanka Chopra
Julianne Hough, Usher, and Priyanka Chopra

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In September, CBS announced that the program would no longer follow the reality competition format, but instead be a documentary special. It will not premiere on Oct. 22 as originally scheduled.

After the criticism began, Hough told fans on Instagram that she was "deeply listening with an open heart and mind."

"The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism," she wrote. "Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor."

Julianne Hough speaks onstage during the EMA Awards Gala sponsored by Beyond Meat, H&M Foundation, Montage International, and Toyota on October 16, 2021 in Van Nuys, California.
Julianne Hough speaks onstage during the EMA Awards Gala sponsored by Beyond Meat, H&M Foundation, Montage International, and Toyota on October 16, 2021 in Van Nuys, California.

Jesse Grant/Getty

On Saturday, Hough told PEOPLE she reached out to various activists on social media following the controversy asking to discuss the situation. Many of them, she said, offered "their deepest kindness by sharing and opening up" during her "time of learning."

RELATED: Derek Hough Is 'Proud' of How Sister Julianne Hough Handled The Activist Backlash: 'I'm in Awe of Her'

"I reached out to so many people who offered their knowledge and their perspective in a way that was inviting and welcoming versus being judgmental," she recalled. "That was kindness at its finest and it really showed that humans really do want to unify and help each other and that touched my heart."

Acknowledging the intent of the program, the actress added, "Intention is one thing and execution is another, so hopefully we kind find the middle ground of both."

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