In June, the 29-year-old actress deleted her Instagram posts after receiving a barrage of harassment from fellow users who vocally disapproved of her character, Rose Tico, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Now, for the first time, she is explaining her decision.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” she writes in an essay for The New York Times. “And those words awakened something deep inside me — a feeling I thought I had grown out of. The same feeling I had when at 9, I stopped speaking Vietnamese altogether because I was tired of hearing other kids mock me.”
She goes on to explain that the harassment she endured awakened a feeling she's fought for years -- that she’s different.
“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," she continues. "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," she adds.
Tran also notes that she understands the importance of the role she has as an actress in shaping people’s perceptions, and she doesn't intend to waste it.
“I know the opportunity given to me is rare,” she shares. “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.”
After she deleted her posts in June, her co-star, Jon Boyega, came to her defense, writing on Twitter, “If you don’t like Star Wars or the characters understand that there are decisions makers 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!”