The actress is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees and the first lead woman of colour in the franchise. Writing in the New York Times, Ms Tran says the abuse revived feelings she experienced growing up. The article addresses her feelings of cultural shame, racial stereotypes and society’s narrow definitions of beauty. “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,” Tran writes. “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 also reveals she and her parents changed their first names after coming to the US so they would be easier for Americans to pronounce. The actress began to receive abuse after being cast as mechanic-turned-Resistance fighter Rose Tico in 2017’s The Last Jedi. She writes that their comments “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. ”
Tran’s co-stars have spoken up in her defence against abusive fans But the actress says she came to realise she had been brainwashed, and shared her hopes for the future. “I want to live in a world where children of colour don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white. 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, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, gender identities and abilities are seen as what they have always been: human beings.” She ends the piece by listing her achievements and writing: “You might know me as Kelly… My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started.”
Tran deleted all of the posts on her Instagram page The honest opinion piece comes at a time of renewed discussion in the US about the importance of racial representation. Crazy Rich Asians topped the US box office on its debut and Netflix’s new teen rom-com adaption To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is being praised for keeping the novel’s Asian-American lead. Fans online welcomed Tran’s honesty in the New York Times piece on Tuesday.
One social media user wrote: “HIRE KELLY TRAN FOR EVERYTHING!!! AND USE HER REAL NAME!!!” Another said: “Immature misogynistic fan boys can’t ruin Star Wars, as much as they’d like to try.” Tran is not the first Star Wars star to fall victim to cyberbullying. Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley also deleted her Instagram account temporarily in 2016, reportedly due to abuse she received. The Last Jedi’s director Rian Johnson described some of the franchise’s fans as “manbabies” for abusing Tran. A “man-only” fan edit of the film, which cut out female characters, was also mocked by Tran’s co-stars Mark Hamill and John Boyega. Boyega has called on fans to stop abusing actors, tweeting: “If you don’t like Star Wars or the characters, understand that there are decisions makers [sic] and harassing the actors/actresses will do nothing. “You’re not entitled to politeness when your approach is rude. Even if you paid for a ticket!”