The actress grew emotional as fans cheered, clapped and chanted her name

By Alexia Fernandez
April 12, 2019 04:56 PM
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Kelly Marie Tran was brought to tears as she stepped onto the stage of Star Wars Celebration on Friday and was greeted with a standing ovation.

The 30-year-old actress waved and smiled as fans cheered, clapped and chanted her name at the event held in Chicago. Her Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker costars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega amped up the crowd, clapping loudly and shouting her name.

“It’s really overwhelming! Hello! Thank you,” said Tran, who portrays Rose Tico, a support crew member that keeps the Resistance starfighters flying.

Director J.J. Abrams added to the excitement, saying, “Rian [Johnson] did a ton of great things, but the greatest thing he did for me was cast Kelly Marie Tran.”

Tran’s standing ovation comes almost a year after she deleted her Instagram photos in June 2018 after enduring months of harassment and bullying online.

The actress 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 or her ethnicity (Tran is Vietnamese-American).

Kelly Marie Tran at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago
| Credit: Lucasfilm

Tran penned an essay about the online abuse in August 2018, in which she said the experience led down a “spiral of self-hate.”

“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 wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.

“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 wrote.

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.”

The cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in Chicago
| Credit: Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“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.”

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

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“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.”