Kelly Marie Tran finally speaks about being harassed off Instagram

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Kelly Marie Tran played mechanic Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and will reprise the role in the next chapter. She is the first woman of color to play a significant role in the Star Wars franchise. Before I saw the film, Kelly came on my radar with this story about her reaction to seeing a fan dressed up as Rose at a premiere. People pointed me to her Instagram because it was just as fun as Kelly was. But Kelly wiped her Instagram back in June 2017 when a bunch of horrible people flooded her social media with racist comments and complaints about her daring to appear in a Star Wars film. You can read some of the comments and equally terrible reactions to her deleting her posts here and here but it will hurt.

Although many people spoke out in Kelly’s defense at the time, Kelly stayed quiet. But not anymore. Kelly wrote a guest column in the New York Times to explain why she deleted her account. You can read her full piece here. I love her even more now.

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.

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 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.

Because the same society that taught some people they were heroes, saviors, inheritors of the Manifest Destiny ideal, taught me I existed only in the background of their stories, doing their nails, diagnosing their illnesses, supporting their love interests — and perhaps the most damaging — waiting for them to rescue me.

And for a long time, I believed them.

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.
It reinforced within me rules that were written before I was born, rules that made my parents deem it necessary to abandon their real names and adopt American ones — Tony and Kay — so it was easier for others to pronounce, a literal erasure of culture that still has me aching to the core.

And 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.

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.

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.

[From The New York Times]

In the full piece, Kelly recounts specific examples of instances that reinforced these beliefs when she was younger. It reminded me of Kimberly Yam’s Twitter thread that spoke to representation, specifically Asian representation and Crazy Rich Asians. I understood conceptually why representation matters but it’s accounts such as Kelly’s and Kimberly’s and all the posts dedicated to Black Panther gave me a glimpse of what they were facing and will hopefully make me a better ally.

I’m glad Kelly is just getting started. I hope she sticks around for a very long time.

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Photo credit: WENN Photos

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37 Responses to “Kelly Marie Tran finally speaks about being harassed off Instagram”

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  1. MaryContrary says:

    That role sucked. It wasn’t a reflection on her-but it was so poorly defined and written.

    • Missy says:

      That’s all you have to say after reading what she wrote?

    • Anon says:

      The article is about racial abuse being hurled at a POC actress, and the first comment is “ok but her character was annoying”? Even if the character/movie wasn’t great, that’s not an excuse for insulting the actress’s race and trying to break her spirit for dare being part of Star Wars.

      Sigh.

    • Jenns says:

      I would like to know what you were thinking when you typed out your response. What does your feelings on her character have anything to do with what she wrote?

    • Caela says:

      I really loved her character because she was different. I didn’t even know there was all this hate until this story broke. Mostly people seem to hate on Rey, Rose and Holdo. What do they have in common…?? Hmmm…. and it seems no surprise that the one WOC in that group gets it the worst.

      I hope she knows there are lots of diehard fans who do love her and her work.

    • INeedANap says:

      I loved her character. I thought the bit with Fynn at the end was overwrought, but I loved the concept of a die-hard believer at the lower levels of the rebellion. She zapped her hero! Rock on Rose!

      • Missy says:

        The thing with the last Jedi is a problem most movies have these days, they put too much in and don’t spend enough time induvidual characters. Rian Johnson did a shitty job with that movie, things were revealed and they were disappointing. Hope it gets fixed in the third movie

      • Jenns says:

        Really hoping that this doesn’t turn into A Last Jedi debate and instead sticks on topic of Loan telling her story.

    • M.A.F. says:

      why is that always the first go to comment on this issue? “It was about the character”. If it was just about the character then the insults about her would not have been used.

  2. Embee says:

    Wow. Her piece gave me chills. What an amazing way to communicate something that I did not at all understand (as a white cis woman).

  3. smcollins says:

    Wow, that is a wonderful, insightful, inspiring and beautifully written essay. My heart broke for her when I read about all the abuse she was receiving, but she’s demonstrated just how strong & resilient she really is. I actually teared up when she revealed her real name and proclaimed that she’s only getting started. I look forward to seeing her again in the next SW (I quite enjoyed her character) and in other projects as well. She deserves any and all opportunities that are no doubt coming her way.

    • Alarmjaguar says:

      I teared up at that point, too. And I can’t wait to see what’s coming next

    • otaku fairy... says:

      Agreed. It must have been hard for her to experience people’s racism on such a personal level (as opposed to knowing it exists because of what her parents/other relatives went through, but maybe not being so openly and aggressively targeted by people as an individual). Her response is powerful.

  4. Aoife says:

    I feel bad for her for getting harassed – her character in Star Wars is weak and annoying but that’s on the writers and not on her acting. But the part where she spoke about “stories that are heard and seen and digested by a world that for so long has tasted only one thing”? What about world cinema, Bollywood, the massive Chinese film industry, etc. etc. etc.? I think she’s confusing the US with the entire rest of the world.

    • OriginalLala says:

      I think by “world” she isn’t talking about the entirety of the planet, but the American/Western world…and she is spot on.

    • Anon says:

      No, she’s not confusing it. She said A world, not THE world. She’s referring to Hollywood.

      • Aoife says:

        I read it as referring to the whole world, but looking again you are probably right that she was speaking about Hollywood.

    • Ai says:

      The world she is referring to is the world of being Asian American and our struggle for representation in the US and Hollywood —Again, we are distinct from Asians else where – different identities, culture and experiences.
      Lastly, we all should be supporting her by calling her by her real name: Loan.

    • Himmiefan says:

      Those film industries don’t have as much of a global impact as the US and British film industries. I love Kelly Marie, and yeah Jedi was pretty bad, but that has nothing to do with the need to treat others with respect. I’ve pointed out online to many a Star Wars toxic man-baby that good, strong men, men with real balls, advocate for women and POC and don’t try to hog all films or all roles for themselves – and certainly don’t abuse people online.

  5. OriginalLala says:

    Yes!! I was thrilled to see her onscreen, and I love what she is saying…

  6. Jenns says:

    I can already see it happening here, so I think this needs to be said:

    No one cares what you think of Rose Tico.

    This isn’t about her character in a movie. This is about Loan and her experiences as an Asian woman. And people who pull the “Well, I didn’t like her character, but Kelly seems ok…” are part of the problem here. So if you feel the need to inject your unnecessary opinion on a character in a movie that came out last year, take it up with Rian Johnson.

    • lucy2 says:

      Well said, Jenns.

      Her essay is very well written and has impact. I’m impressed. I hate that it got to her (how could it not?) but I’m glad she’s coming out the other side of it stronger and even more determined. To go full Star Wars on it:
      “‘If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.’”

  7. balehead2012 says:

    Such a beautiful and eloquent essay, offering an insight into the horrible way some people treated her. I wish her all the best and hope she continues to stay strong!

  8. Miss Margo says:

    Her honesty and vulnerability is so beautiful. I will be an ally for you Kelly!!! Love her so much.

  9. Case says:

    I have a disability. Just recently, Aerie ran an ad campaign with all different kinds of women in their underwear — including women with disabilities, just like me. It had a profound impact on me — I’d never, not once, seen a woman with my condition shown in a light that was beautiful and sexy. I grew accustomed to either not seeing myself represented at all or occasionally seeing myself portrayed as a background character, a weak character, a pitied character in shows and movies that it never dawned on me that someone like me could be shown in such a glamorous light. Because that’s what happens when you’re marginalized to such a strong degree — you don’t even THINK of the possibility of being shown in the same way as an able-bodied woman, or a cis woman, white woman. When it comes to superhero movies pre-Wonder Woman, I didn’t even THINK about how incredible it would be to see a woman shown as a powerful warrior instead of a man.

    You don’t feel that way because you think you don’t deserve to be shown in different roles, necessarily, but because you’ve never been shown that example, you learn to just take yourself out of the equation because certain roles in society aren’t “for you.” Because progress is happening, but not that fast, and you just learn to accept it.

    That’s why I feel so strongly about Wonder Woman, about Black Panther, about the words Kelly wrote. I know what it’s like to never see yourself in certain roles, and how powerful it can be to just see one positive role model breaking the mold.

    • Jenns says:

      Which is why her character matters. For all the flippant “I didn’t like Rose…” comments that people somehow feel the need to share, they are plenty of girls out there who loved her because seeing a woman of color in a Star Wars matter meant something to them.

  10. launicaangelina says:

    Preach, sista! She wrote an amazing article. I remember being a kid and believing my last name was too ethnic and wanting a more common Latino surname. I grew to love my name and its unique and complex pronunciation. My entire name collectively is very Mexican! Lol! Angelina is my middle name, but since birth, my parents called me by that so it was not an issue of me choosing it to have a more mainstream name. Also, my family has a trend of using middle names instead of first names. My first name is after my grandma in Mexico. I’m married now so I simply added my husband’s last name to my name (Hispanic surname) and now have 4 names (also very Mexican). I found her article relatable as she articulated the complexities of being a person of color in the USA.

  11. Amelie says:

    For many reasons, I couldn’t get into the Rose character in The Last Jedi (and I’ve seen the movie a few times since and my opinion hasn’t changed). I’m glad she was there because Star Wars needs more female characters and it is incredible she is the first female minority to be cast on screen (there’s Lupita Nyongo of course but she plays an animated character but still important). I just feel like her character could have been so much more than it was but that’s on the writers/creative team.

    Having said that, I was pretty appalled when I learned the harassment she got on social media. Just because you don’t like a character does not give you license to attack someone based on their race. Unfortunately, Star Wars fans are infamous for being ruthless (all you have to do is look at poor Jake Lloyd who played Anakin as a 9 year old in the Phantom Menace, the hatred he experienced from SW fans who despised his performance traumatized him for life, his story is really depressing) and when they don’t like something, they can be so, so savage and cruel. And this isn’t the first time they’ve attacked someone for their race. I remember people freaking out when the trailer for The Force Awakens came out and being all out of sorts because it showed a black man, John Boyega. The movie hadn’t even come out yet and people were already judging him based on his race though I don’t think he faced the same level of cruelty aimed at poor Kelly. I’m glad she wrote this and I hope she will one day come back to social media. She’s an important part of Star Wars history and her voice is essential to the “fanboys” to make them understand Star Wars is not a white boys club anymore.

  12. Jessica says:

    She wasn’t really on my radar before, but she is now. I’m happy she decided to express herself.
    Not related to the point of the article, but, damn, she has great style! I love her dresses.

  13. Caty says:

    We hear “representation matters” and I’ve always wanted more diversity in the stories I have access to in theaters.

    But seeing a character who looks like you is more profoundly affecting than I thought. Anyone else weep through Moana or Coco? Seeing someone who looks like you being strong and portrayed as a traditional “hero” touched something I didn’t know was there: shame. Her articulation of a nuanced is issue is beautiful and touching. Thank you, Loan!

    I refuse to address the merits of her character here out of respect to her.

    SW is an amazing franchise that deserves more than tangential, totally out of place discussion. So move that stuff to a more appropriate place with depth.

    • Case says:

      I completely agree. When you’re used to not being represented, you truly can’t fathom how moving it is when you finally DO see a character like yourself portrayed as strong and heroic.

  14. Jenn says:

    Never heard of her and I’m not a Dtar Wsrd fan but LOVE and relate to her article.

  15. Trashaddict says:

    Too many trolls on the internet. Time to go back to the beginning and teach the very young three things: respect, acceptance, and manners.
    Works the best if you teach them very early.
    Ms. Tran should have been able to enjoy her success in getting and playing this role. She responded to low-down childish behavior with class and grace, and she played the role well. For every stupid troll post, I hope her success will be that much greater

  16. kynesgrove89 says:

    Star Wars fans are incredibly toxic. This reminds me of how the treated the BLACK man that voiced and did motion cap for Jar Jar. Almost to the point of suicide. These trolls should be ashamed of themselves. It really killed my love of those movies. I hope she sticks around too. I liked Rose well enough. And we do need more minorities in lead roles.