Kelly Marie Tran, the Star Wars: The Last Jedi actor who quit social media after being hounded by trolls, has finally spoken out about her experience of online harassment.
The 29-year-old American, whose parents moved to America from Vietnam before she was born, wrote in a moving piece for the New York Times of her experience: “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.”
“This is what it is to grow up as a person of colour in a white-dominated world.”
“This is what it is to be a woman in a society that has taught its daughters that we are only worthy of love if we are deemed attractive by its sons. This is the world I grew up in, but not the world I want to leave behind.”
Although she doesn’t directly refer to the trolls who bombarded her Instagram account with hateful messages (and why should she? They don’t deserve the airtime), it’s clear that she was deeply affected by their missives.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” Tran, who plays Rose Tico in The Last Jedi and Episode IX, writes.
“Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of colour already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, only valid as a minor character in their lives and stories.”
The actress, whose acting resume before The Last Jedi consisted of a number of short films and comedy videos, deleted all of her Instagram posts back in June despite having 189k followers at the time.
A so-called “anti-Disney” group later claimed responsibility for the abuse campaign directed at Tran. They claimed they coordinated the “War on Kathleen Kennedy and her feminist soldiers” in protest against the Lucasfilm president and “her feminazi agenda”, but it’s not been proven that they were the ones who forced Tran off Instagram.
Fellow Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley, who plays lead character Rey in the new trilogy, also quit social media in 2016 after receiving toxic messages from ‘fans’.
“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,” Tran adds.
“I believed those words, those stories, carefully crafted by a society that was built to uphold the power of one type of person — one sex, one skin tone, one existence.”
Thankfully, Hollywood rallied around Tran calling out the trolls on Twitter.
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) June 6, 2018
If you don’t like Star Wars or the characters understand that there are decisions makers and harassing the actors/ actresses will do nothing. You’re not entitled to politeness when your approach is rude. Even if you paid for a ticket! 🤷🏾♂️
— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) June 12, 2018
Last year I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the beautiful #KellyMarieTran at Star Wars Celebration. You would be hard pressed to find a more genuinely kind & sweet soul. I can assure you that if this is the kind of person you feel the need to harass it is you who is empty. pic.twitter.com/clGZFSe9PT
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) June 5, 2018
I totally embarrassingly fanned out when I met Kelly Marie Tran. Rose Tico was unequivocally one of the highlights of The Last Jedi. You’d have to be an idiot to disagree with that.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) June 5, 2018
Tran says she’s now come to a realisation that it’s not her that’s the problem, it’s the system, and she’s ready to start fighting back.
“I had been brainwashed into believing that my existence was limited to the boundaries of another person’s approval. I had been tricked into thinking that my body was not my own, that I was only beautiful if someone else believed it, regardless of my own opinion. I had been told and retold this by everyone: by the media, by Hollywood, by companies that profited from my insecurities, manipulating me so that I would buy their clothes, their makeup, their shoes, in order to fill a void that was perpetuated by them in the first place.”
Tran also talks about her parents adopting American names “so it was easier for others to pronounce”, a common experience for first-generation immigrants that she describes as “a literal erasure of culture” that left her “aching to the core”. This adds powerful weight to her sign-off:
“You might know me as Kelly.
I am the first woman of color to have a leading role in a “Star Wars” movie.
I am the first Asian woman to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair.
My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started.”
Kelly Marie Tran WILL return as Rose Tico in Star Wars IX, in cinemas whether you like it or not, in 2019.