Friday 22 March 2019

Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran speaks about racist and sexist online abuse

The Hollywood star deleted her Instagram posts after she was harassed online.

Kelly Marie Tran was the victim of online abuse (Matt Crossick/PA)
Kelly Marie Tran was the victim of online abuse (Matt Crossick/PA)

By Laura Harding, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran has spoken for the first time about the racist and sexist abuse she received online after her starring role in The Last Jedi.

The Hollywood star, who had her big break playing Rose in the franchise, deleted all her Instagram posts earlier this summer after she was the victim of online harassment.

Writing in the New York Times, she said: “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 colour already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.

“And those words awakened something deep inside me — a feeling I thought I had grown out of.

“The same feeling I had when at nine, 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!’

“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.

“And that feeling, I realise 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.”

With Gwendoline Christie, Laura Dern and Daisy Ridley at a photocall for The Last Jedi (Ian West/PA)

Tran said that for a long time she believed the narratives that she had been taught by society, that she only existed in the background of stories.

She added: “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.”

She continued: “As much as I hate to admit it, I started blaming myself. I thought, ‘Oh, maybe if I was thinner’ or ‘Maybe if I grow out my hair’ and, worst of all, ‘Maybe if I wasn’t Asian.’

“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.

“And it was then that I realised I had been lied to.

“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.”

She added: “I am not the first person to have grown up this way. This is what it is to grow up as a person of colour 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. This is the world I grew up in, but not the world I want to leave behind.”

She signed off her piece, writing: “You might know me as Kelly.

“I am the first woman of colour 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.”

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