Back in June, Star Wars newcomer Kelly Marie Tran quit Instagram, after being subjected to a barrage of racist and sexist online harassment. Now, in a new essay for the New York Times, Tran reveals how the unrelenting trolls took a toll on her own sense of self-worth.
"It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them," wrote the 29-year-old actress. "Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories."
Tran, who played rebel mechanic Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was propelled into the limelight as the first woman of color to play a lead role in the billion dollar franchise. Trolls flocked to Tran's social media pages, leaving disparaging, comments on her Instagram, and altering Tico's Wookieepedia bio to include racist language.
"Those words awakened something deep inside me — a feeling I thought I had grown out of," writes Tran.
The actress recalls times, apart from the recent online harassment, when she's been made to feel like the "other." She writes how at 9, she stopped speaking Vietnamese because she was "tired of hearing other kids mock" her. In another instance, a waitress assumed Tran was a foreign exchange student while she was at dinner with her white boyfriend and his family.
"Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was "other," that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them. And that feeling, I realize now, was, and is, shame, a shame for the things that made me different, a shame for the culture from which I came from. And to me, the most disappointing thing was that I felt it at all."
Despite her status as a successful movie star in a billion-dollar franchise, Tran was made to feel ashamed by the slew of shitty online harassers.
"For months, I went down a spiral of self-hate, into the darkest recesses of my mind, places where I tore myself apart, where I put their words above my own self-worth," revealed Tran.
"And it was then that I realized I had been lied to,” wrote Tran. “And it was in this realization that I felt a different shame — not a shame for who I was, but a shame for the world I grew up in. And a shame for how that world treats anyone who is different."
So Tran, the first Asian woman to grace to cover of Vanity Fair, instead vows to fight for a world where "children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white," and "women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence."
And, given both Tran's parents took American names to be "easier for others to pronounce," the young actress ends her powerful essay, with a poignant revelation:
"My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started."
And we can't wait to be witness to your success, Ms. Tran!
Tran's full essay is worth a read – you can check it out, here.