Kelly Marie Tran, the first woman of color in a major "Star Wars" role, who left social media last year after experiencing racist cyberbullying, spoke out Tuesday about having been marginalized as a woman and as a citizen of Asian descent.
"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," Tran, 29, wrote in a New York Times essay.
"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 said. "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."
She recalled having been mocked as a child for being Vietnamese-American, and that, as a teen "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!' "
Tran said as a woman she had been "brainwashed" into believing concepts of beauty perpetuated "by companies that profited from my insecurities, manipulating me so that I would buy their clothes, their makeup, their shoes." She held out hope for "a world where children of color don't spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white . . . [and] where women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence."
She concluded, "My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started." The name, pronounced "low-on," is not in her listing in the California Birth Index, compiled by the California Office of Health Information and Research, which states, "Kelly Marie Tran was born on January 17, 1989 in San Diego County, California." No publicist for Tran could be located for clarification.
"Star Wars" star Mark Hamill applauded Tran's essay, tweeting, "I said it before & I'll say it again: WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE? I love you, Loan . . . we don't deserve you & you ARE just getting started."