Kelly Marie Tran Hits Back at Online Harassers in Moving Essay After 'Spiral of Self-Hate'

"I put their words above my own self-worth," Kelly Marie Tran said after facing online harassment

90th Academy Awards - Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Mar 2018
Photo: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Kelly Marie Tran deleted her Instagram account due to the online harassment she faced. Now, two months later, she is opening up about persevering through the “self-hate” and breaking her silence about the marginalization of minority groups.

“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them. 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,” the star, 29, wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Tran starred in 2017’s The Last Jedi and made history as the first Asian-American actress to land a major role in the Star Wars franchise. However, not all fans were welcoming to the new character of resistance fighter Rose Tico or her ethnicity (Tran is Vietnamese-American).

“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 shared.

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Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. David James/©2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

The San Diego native, who was born Loan Tran, recalled past experiences of forcing herself to assimilate, including a time when she was mistaken for an exchange student and even abandoning the Vietnamese language to stop school children from “mock[ing] me.”

“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,” she 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. And to me, the most disappointing thing was that I felt it at all.”

It was after booking Star Wars that the online harassment “awakened something deep inside me — a feeling I thought I had grown out of it,” she explained.

“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,” Tran said.

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Though she has yet to return to Instagram, Tran is focused on leading by example; most importantly being a voice for minorities, including women and people of color.

“I am not the first person to have grown up this way. 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,” she wrote.

“This is the world I grew up in, but not the world I want to leave behind,” Tran poignantly said, adding, “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.”

At the time Tran was being harassed on social media, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the series, called out the trolls and defended her.

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