In addition to the orange jail jumpsuit and Crazy Eyes’ iconic knotted hairstyle, Hough wore an I.D. card with the character’s name on it and painted her face brown, which led to some people accusing the dancer of wearing blackface.
“I am a huge fan of the show Orange Is the New Black, actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created,” Hough wrote via social media in October 2013, apologizing for her costume choice. “It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize.”
Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox exclusively told Us Weekly in October 2013 that she “wasn’t offended” by the Dancing With the Stars alum’s costume, noting that Hough might not have known how it could be perceived by others.
“I thought it was a shame that she is in this country, that she would wear blackface and not understand the historical implications of that,” Cox explained. “I don’t think Julianne is making a specific informed choice to comment on blackness. I just think it’s out of this ignorance. That’s really sad.”
Aduba, for her part, addressed the controversial costume in November 2013, telling E! News that she didn’t hold any grudge toward Hough. “I think maybe it was an unfortunate event, but she apologized, and I feel like we can all move on,” the actress said at the time.
The Footloose actress spoke about her costume mishap two years later, while posing for Allure’s April 2015 cover.
“Ignorance is sometimes not bliss … It was all out of fun and respect for the character,” Hough said at the time, reflecting on the poor choice. “I don’t even know how to talk about it because it’s such a sensitive topic. It makes me so sad to think that I was that dumb. I learned a big lesson.”
The Safe Haven star again addressed her past conflict in September 2021 after coming under fire for her participation in the upcoming series, The Activist, which was originally supposed to be a competition show where activists battled it out and were judged by a celebrity panel. (CBS has since announced it is reworking the premise.)
“Wearing blackface was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and my own white body bias that hurt people and is something I regret doing to this day,” Hough wrote via social media at the time, after one fan brought up the costume controversy. “However, the regret that I live with pales in comparison to the lived experiences of so many. 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.”