Star Wars‘ Kelly Marie Tran has spoken out for the first time after deleting her Instagram account following online racist and sexist abuse.
Back in June, it emerged that Tran had deleted all of her Instagram posts following months of harassment from angry Star Wars fans. She was the first woman of colour to play a leading role in the franchise, and it was first reported back in December that she had faced racist and sexist comments after her appearance in the film.
Now, Tran has written an Op-Ed for the New York Times in which she speaks out against harassment, marginalisation, and how she was made to feel like an ‘other’ while growing up in America with Vietnamese origin.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” wrote Tran. “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 continued: “And those words awakened something deep inside me — a feeling I thought I had grown out of. The same feeling I had when at 9, I stopped speaking Vietnamese altogether because I was tired of hearing other kids mock me. Or at 17, when at dinner with my white boyfriend and his family, I ordered a meal in perfect English, to the surprise of the waitress, who exclaimed, ‘Wow, it’s so cute that you have an exchange student’!”
Tran went on to write how she started to believe that she could never be a “hero” and only live in the fringes of society, due to a culture “carefully crafted by a society that was built to uphold the power of one type of person — one sex, one skin tone, one existence”.
“And it was then that I realized I had been lied to,” wrote Tran. “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.”
Concluding, Tran added that she will not tolerate marginalisation and vows to work towards a more inclusive and understanding society.
“I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white,” wrote Tran. “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. These are the thoughts that run through my head every time I pick up a script or a screenplay or a book. I know the opportunity given to me is rare. I know that I now belong 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. I know how important that is. And I am not giving up.”
She added: “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.”
“If you don’t like Star Wars or the characters understand that there are decisions makers and harassing the actors/ actresses will do nothing,” wrote John Boyega in Tran’s defence earlier this summer. “You’re not entitled to politeness when your approach is rude. Even if you paid for a ticket!”
He continued: “To the majority of Star Wars fans thank you for supporting and putting yourselves in our shoes. You understand that there is a process so much appreciated!”