Kelly Marie Tran, a star of last year’s “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi,” has spoken out to explain her decision in June to delete all her Instagram posts following months of harassment from online trolls.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” Tran wrote in an essay published Tuesday in the New York Times in which she recalled the “spiral of self-hatred” she experienced growing up as a Vietnamese-American.
Tran, who became the first non-white woman to have a leading role in a “Star Wars” movie, admitted that the racist trolls who derided her had gotten under her skin. “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.”
The American-born actress, whose parents were refugees from Vietnam, described how the racist comments on her social media feed “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,” she wrote.
Tran — who played Rose Tico, a Resistance mechanic, in “The Last Jedi” — has dealt with online harassment before. Her character’s page on Wookieepedia, a “Star Wars” reference site, was altered by racist trolls last year, changing her name to “Ching Chong Wing Tong,” and calling her “stupid, autistic and retarded.”
In her Times essay, Tran recalls her conflicted feelings while growing up and of wanting to fit into the dominant American culture. “And as much as I hate to admit it, I started blaming myself. I thought, ‘Oh, maybe if I was thinner’ or ‘Maybe if I grow out my hair’ and, worst of all, ‘Maybe if I wasn’t Asian.'”
“I had been brainwashed into believing that my existence was limited to the boundaries of another person’s approval,” she wrote.
She pledged to make a difference in the roles she chooses. “I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white,” she wrote. “I want to live in a world where women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence.”