Star Wars leading actress Kelly Marie Tran—who deleted all her Instagram posts in early June after receiving a torrent of racist, sexist harassment—fired back against her detractors in a personal essay published Tuesday in The New York Times. In the essay, Tran never directly addressed the Instagram comments, which came following her starring role in December’s The Last Jedi. Tran was the first woman of color to have a leading role in the Star Wars franchise. Instead, she commented on a pervasive culture of discrimination that’s haunted her throughout her life. That includes, she wrote, when she was 9 and stopped speaking Vietnamese so she wouldn’t be mocked, and when she was 17, eating dinner with her white boyfriend and family, and her waitress mistook her for an exchange student.
“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,” Tran wrote. “And for a long time, I believed them.” But over time, she wrote, her shame turned into something else: “a shame for the world I grew up in.” She then pledged to change that world, and concluded her essay by noting that “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.”