Actress Kelly Marie Tran finally speaks out on the racism, sexism, and online harassment she received after playing the character of Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, revealing how vitriol has caused her to look inward while parting an empowering message about heritage-based shame.
Tran made history when she became the first woman of color to be cast in a lead role in the Star Wars franchise. Her character in The Last Jedi served as an inspiration to countless Asian-American women and girls starved for onscreen representation.
Kelly Marie Tran Addresses Online Harassment
Tran's performance wasn't celebrated, however. Shortly after the film premiered, dozens of Star Wars fans attacked Tran by posting racist and sexist messages on online forums and even her personal social media pages. The toxicity became too much for Tran. She eventually deleted her Instagram page in June, following nearly a year of endless online harassment. Now, two months later, Tran is shutting down trolls in an incisive, thought-provoking open letter in The New York Times that not only demonstrates the tolls of anonymized harassment also but takes a look at various societal norms designed to oppress anyone who's different.
"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," wrote Tran. "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."
A Society That Prizes Whiteness
Tran asserts the recent harassment she received has made her question if she would ever be sufficient in a society that prizes whiteness above all else and suppresses anyone who dares challenge those norms. She had been brainwashed into believing that she exists within the boundaries of another person's approval, she writes, and had been convinced her body is someone else's property and that she was only beautiful if another person said so.
"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," wrote Tran.
That suppression has caused Tran to forget about her heritage and own culture, like many other people of different races who come to America, she wrote. Even her parents had changed their names to make it easier for other Americans to understand, which she called "a literal erasure of culture" that haunts her to this day.
But she's done with all of that. Tran concluded the piece with an empowering message of resilience.
"You might know me as Kelly." Tran was the first woman of color to land a lead role in Star Wars and the first Asian woman to grace the cover of Vanity Fair.
"My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started."