Earlier this year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress Kelly Marie Tran suddenly logged off the internet in what appeared to be in response to an outpouring of racist, sexist trolls who felt the need to voice their distaste for her existence within one of the most popular franchises in the world.
Today, the actress decided to pen an open letter explaining her feelings on the matter. And what she said was pretty great.
Tran opened up today in a powerful piece in The New York Times expressing that she’s here to stay regardless of what the garbage faction of Star Wars fandom has to say about her and her character Rose Tico. And she plans to continue fighting for everyone to see themselves on screen.
Even though Tran (like so many people of colour who grow up in societies that make them out to be lesser than their white counterparts) at one point let the harassment get to her, she found strength in owning her identity — including revealing in the piece that her real name is Loan.
[A]s 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.
The shame Tran says she once felt about the things people said about her has been replaced with a more than justified disappointment in the public and, seemingly, a renewed resolve to show the world more than one story:
Yes, I have been lied to. We all have.
And it was in this realisation that I felt a different shame — not a shame for who I was, but a shame for the world I grew up in. And a shame for how that world treats anyone who is different.
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.
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, 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.
Even though Tran’s absence from the web is a net negative for the Star Wars fandom that would benefit from seeing one of the fresh faces breathing new life into the franchise, her taking the time to address how she’s been received is nonetheless important. Voices like hers are an integral part of letting people know that we live in an age where the heroes in our stories are beginning to look and sound like the everyone.
Definitely give the whole letter a read.