A lot has been said about social media toxicity in the wake of some high-profile users deactivating their accounts in recent months. In June, Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran, 29, deleted all of the photos on her Instagram after months of racially charged harassment; a few weeks later, Stranger Things breakout Millie Bobby Brown, 14, logged off Twitter after becoming the face of homophobic memes.
For women, especially women of color, navigating social media can be a mentally taxing and sometimes unhealthy experience. Now, Tran is speaking out about her decision to leave social media altogether.
“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,” she wrote in an essay for The New York Times. “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.”
The Vietnamese-American actress starred as Resistance heroine Rose Tico in Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a role that has the distinction of being the beloved franchise’s first woman of color in a lead role. Her groundbreaking performance was celebrated, but her effervescent personality is what really endeared her to a legion of fans. No one has ever been happier to be promoting a Star Wars film than Tran, a lifelong fan of the Skywalker saga.
But Johnson’s boldly feminist take on Star Wars also prompted backlash. Johnson and Tran received the brunt of the vitriol, harassed by nameless and faceless trolls who didn’t like the film and Rose’s history-making role in it.
“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,” Tran wrote.
That is, until she realized that she does deserve to be the center of her own story, the hero on the cover of Vanity Fair. “I want to live in a world where children of color 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,” she added. “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.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight; Star Wars taught us that. Rebellions start slow, then swell into something fierce and undeniable. And it’s clear that Loan Kelly Marie Tran is leading a revolution of her very own — and she’s just getting started.
Below, watch Cole Sprouse, Amandla Stenberg, Hailee Steinfeld, and more celebs talk about staying sane on social media with MTV News.