Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress Kelly Marie Tran has spoken out about the “shame” of being marginalised for the first time since she deleted her Instagram posts in response to online harassment.
In a powerful opinion piece for The New York Times, Tran reveals the extent of the abuse she has received, writing of internet trolls: “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.”
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And she makes it clear that the recent abuse has only reinforced much of what she has been made to feel throughout her life as a person of colour and a woman.
Tran says that at the age of nine she stopped speaking Vietnamese completely to avoid mockery and adds that she has always felt she has been treated as “other”. She also writes that her parents adopted American names in order to integrate better, “a literal erasure of culture that still has me aching to the core”.
Tran states that she felt “shame for the things that made me different, a shame for the culture from which I came from” and that for months she descended into “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”.
The actress reveals she later realised she had been “brainwashed”.
“I had been tricked into thinking that my body was not my own,” she writes, “that I was beautiful only 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 believes that her experience is commonplace. “This is what it is to grow up as a person of color 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 worthy of love only if we are deemed attractive by its sons.”
After being subject to a long campaign of racist and sexist abuse on social media, Tran deleted her Instagram posts this summer before a pro-“straight white male hero” group took credit for her departure.
In her piece, Tran writes that she wants to live in a more accepting world and to help create it, acknowledging that she belongs “to a small group of privileged people who get to tell stories for a living, stories that are heard and seen and digested by a world that for so long has tasted only one thing”.
Tran is reprising her role as Rose Tico in the next Star Wars movie and is also set to appear in Facebook Watch’s first major series, Sorry for Your Loss.