Two months after wiping her Instagram account, Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran is opening up about the online harassment she faced, the “self-hate” it caused, and how she made it to the other side.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” Tran wrote in her Tuesday op-ed for The New York Times. “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 says the harassment “awakened something deep inside me — a feeling I thought I had grown out of it.”
“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,” she shared. “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.”
Tran, who starred in 2017’s The Last Jedi as Rose Tico, became the first Asian-American actress to have a major role in the 40-plus year history of the Star Wars franchise. She admits that the online abuse had her going “down a spiral of self-hate” and blaming herself, even thinking, “Maybe if I wasn’t Asian.”
“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.”
She continued, “I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white. I want to live in a world where women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence. I want to live in a world where people of all races, religions, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientations, gender identities and abilities are seen as what they have always been: human beings. This is the world I want to live in. And this is the world that I will continue to work toward.”
When Tran initially left social media, she received support from Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill, who, along with a picture of himself with his costar, wrote on Twitter, “What’s not to love? #GetALifeNerds.”
Earlier in the piece, Tran mentioned how her parents had previously felt the need to change their given names to “American ones.” This set up her powerful conclusion: “My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started.”
Read Tran’s full letter here.