It’s been a little more than three years since Kelly Marie Tran made her Star Wars debut. Now, she’s about to be immortalized as a Disney princess when Raya and the Last Dragon premieres on Disney+.
In a Hollywood Reporter feature published days before the film premieres, Tran, 32, reflected on the online bullying she faced immediately following The Last Jedi premiere. She likened the experience of landing a Star Wars role but then facing racist and sexist harassment to an “embarrassingly horrible breakup.”
By the time The Rise of Skywalker premiered two years later, Tran had deleted all of her social media posts and shut herself off from sharing her life with the public. Tran’s story was a case study of the cruel consequences of toxic fandom, especially when it comes to the racism, misogyny and bullying Star Wars stars and creators face when their character or story isn’t what certain fans wanted.
On the flip side, many Star Wars fans have flocked to Tran’s side and continue to speak out against racism and sexism that continues to plague the fandom and many others. In The Hollywood Reporter article, Tran said she leaned on her friends and went to therapy after facing the bullying.
"If someone doesn’t understand me or my experience, it shouldn’t be my place to have to internalize their misogyny or racism or all of the above. Maybe they just don’t have the imagination to understand that there are different types of people living in the world."
Other than writing a New York Times op-ed in 2018, Tran has mostly been absent from the spotlight while still starring in Facebook’s Sorry For Your Loss and lending her voice talents to Raya and The Croods: A New Age. The Hollywood Reporter article is the first in-depth feature interview she’s done in years.
Still, she says as a longtime Disney nerd, landing the titular role in Raya was a bucket list item. And, it was the first time in her career she was able to represent her heritage on the big screen. Tran is the first woman of color lead in a Star Wars film and the first Southeast Asian Disney princess.
She explains her struggles with the pressures of representation:
"I understand why there’s that sort of label on the things I’ve done. As a kid, I saw people working in this industry and thought they were somehow elevated human beings, and that if I ever got to that place, I would never feel any insecurity or doubt, and that’s just not true. So I acknowledge and validate the label of these things being historic, and I’m so grateful to be part of them, but for my own sanity I have to not think about that too much."
Through an intense few years, Tran says she hasn’t lost that “fire that burned inside of me” before she landed the Star Wars role and is still passionate about the “magic of storytelling.”
"…If you really come into your power and surround yourself with people who are honoring your voice and their own voices — I guess that’s how I got through it."
Read more of Tran’s interview with The Hollywood Reporter here.
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