In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, the 29-year-old Asian American actress addressed the criticisms surrounding her role in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and shared her life experiences while growing up as “a person of color in a white-dominated world.”
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” she wrote.
“Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.”
Tran revealed how “othering” has made normal interactions in her life quite uncomfortable. She stopped speaking Vietnamese and became ashamed of her culture. Such feelings caused her to feel ashamed of herself.
“I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white.”
“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.”
Tran lamented that the media, Hollywood, and other entities have profited from the insecurities of people like her and how such a system has existed long ago.
“Yes, I have been lied to. We all have. And it was in this realization 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.“
“And as 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,'” she said. “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.”
She knew that such an experience is shared by many and expressed that she aspires this to chance in the future.
“I am not the first person to have grown up this way. This is what it is to grow up as a person of color 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.”
She noted that such realizations have influenced her decisions whenever she picks up “a script or a screenplay or a book.”
“I know the opportunity given to me is rare. 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.”
She then finished the piece by noting her achievements and reiterating her motivations to move forward.
“You might know me as Kelly. 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.”
Tran is set to reprise her role of Rose Tico in the upcoming “Star Wars: Episode IX” set to be released on Dec. 20, 2019.