Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s Kelly Marie Tran was overjoyed to win a major role in the new trilogy. Sadly, delight quickly turned to shock and pain after sexist, racist, and hateful Internet trolls attacked the actress’s social media accounts. After an extended period of cyberbullying, Tran deactivated her Instagram in June and opted to lay low. Director Rian Johnson and costar Mark Hamill came to Tran’s defense, condemning the hateful attacks.
Now, after months of silence, Tran is firing back with a statement of her own. On August 23rd, the Asian American star penned a piece titled “I Won’t Be Marginalized By Online Harassment” that was featured in The New York Times.
Tran begins by explains “It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them.”
She describes her experience as a woman of color growing up, feeling like she didn’t belong or that spaces did not belong to her.
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.
She remembers a pivotal and sad moment in her childhood when she stopped speaking Vietnamese because other kids had made her so ashamed of her culture by mocking her. In another experience with racism, a waitress marveled at her ability to speak English so well. Even Tran’s parents abandoned Vietnamese names and adopted American ones to avoid seeming different.
Tran admits that for awhile, she really did feel inferior. She recalls “I believed those words, those stories, carefully crafted by a society that was built to uphold the power of one type of person — one sex, one skin tone, one existence.”
In one elegant and powerful paragraph, Tran attacks the sexist and racist standards of beauty and success that many of her trolls and bullies employed against her. She calls out society and Hollywood for creating a toxic atmosphere for women of color.
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. 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.
In a powerful declaration at the conclusion of the piece, Tran affirms that while the experience definitely tore into some old wounds, she won’t be backing down from her dreams or going anywhere.
“You might know me as Kelly. I am the first woman of color to have a leading role in a “Star Wars” movie.I am the first Asian woman to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair. My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started.”
And around the Internet, Tran’s many allies, fans, and friends had her back.
NO ONE CARES IF YOU DONT LIKE ROSE TICO. NOT A SOUL. STOP MENTIONING IT EVEN WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO SAY SOMETHING NICE ABOUT KELLY MARIE TRAN.
— Abby Gleason (@abbygleason) August 21, 2018
I am in tears.
WE do not deserve to internalize the shame the world has forced upon us. THE WORLD SHOULD BE ASHAMED FOR WHAT IT HAS BECOME.
— Jenny Yang (at TED conference) (@jennyyangtv) August 21, 2018
Powerful, beautiful, brave. I love Kelly Marie Tran 💖 https://t.co/UXO6oH8fVF
— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) August 21, 2018
“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. This is the world I grew up in, but not the world I want to leave behind.” https://t.co/nVJWdS79Qh
— Brie Larson (@brielarson) August 21, 2018