“Star Wars'” Kelly Marie Tran opens up about online abuse: “It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them”

ABC/Rick Rowell(LOS ANGELES) -- Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran deleted her Instagram this summer after experiencing relentless online harassment. Now, in a new essay for the New York Times, the actress speaks out about the cyber abuse for the first time.

Tran -- the first woman of color to have a leading role in a Star Wars movie -- begins by explaining, “It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them.”

“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 writes.

Tran, who played Rose Tico in Jedi, says the online bullying brought back memories of racist experiences of her youth, like when she stopped speaking Vietnamese at age nine so the other kids wouldn’t make fun of her, or when, at age 17, she was mistaken for an exchange student while out with her white boyfriend and his family.

“I had been brainwashed into believing that my existence was limited to the boundaries of another person’s approval,” she writes.

Tran goes on to list her hopes for a better world and vows to use her position of privilege to make a difference.

“I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white,” she says. “…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.”

She signs off using her Vietnamese birth name: “My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.