Back in June, Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran — who played the character of Rose Tico in the 2017 film The Last Jedi — deleted all her Instagram posts after experiencing months of racist harassment from fans of the series. In a new op-ed published Tuesday in the New York Times, Tran spoke out about the online hate, and the way the harassment “seemed to confirm” to Tran the otherness she felt growing up as a woman and a person of color.
“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 wrote. “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.”
Tran, who is Vietnamese-American, became the first woman of color to star in a leading role in a Star Wars film with her turn in The Last Jedi, which came out in December. But Star Wars fans attacked Tran and her character — in part by changing the entry for Rose Tico on the Star Wars database Wookieepedia to include racist and ableist slurs, including calling her character “Ching Chong Wing Tong.” On Twitter, Tran’s body was attacked and mocked.
As the BBC reported in June, Tran had previously used her Instagram account to express how excited she was to become a part of the Star Wars universe, writing in one post, “I know how lucky I am to be a part of something that people love, to be able to act and tell stories at all.” But, after months of abuse, she finally wiped her Instagram, leaving it completely blank.
In her Times op-ed, Tran said the harassment took a psychological toll. “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,” she wrote.
Until, she wrote, she realized “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 beautiful only if someone else believed it, regardless of my own opinion.”
She said she now hopes to continue working toward a world “where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white” and where “women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence.” Tran ended the op-ed by identifying herself not as Kelly but as “Loan,” and, she wrote, “I am just getting started.”