'Star Trek' Star Nichelle Nichols Passed Away At Age 89

'Star Trek' Star Nichelle Nichols Passed Away At Age 89

The actor broke the race barrier becoming one of the first Black people to appear on primetime television in one of the most coveted shows.

Nichelle Nichols who portrayed communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek series, died Saturday night, July 30, 2022, in Silver City, N.M. She was 89 years old, Variety reported. She was one of the first Black people to make an appearance on primetime television, let alone one that has been relevant since it premiered in 1966.


Nichols is extremely proud of this project. Just last December, she made a convention appearance at the Los Angeles Comic-Con. This was part of a three-day farewell celebration weekend. She was seen waving, blowing kisses to fans and flashing the iconic Vulcan Star Trek salute to the audience. She was joined by her son and spokesperson Kyle Johnson, her younger sister Marian Michaels; actresses Judy Pace and Beverly Todd; and former astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, who joined NASA as a result of Nichols' role in recruiting women and minorities into the space program in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of her Star Trek fame.


This is one of the other reasons Nichols has become so iconic with audiences. She managed to change the way NASA recruited its astronauts through her clout as a co-star on Star Trek. She rallied for inclusive recruitment including women and people from ethnic minorities. Among those who were recruited as a result of the program was Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut. 


Born Grace Dell Nichols in Illinois, she originally studied dance at the Chicago Ballet Academy after which she was discovered by Jazz legend, Duke Ellington. Starting as a ballet dancer, she ended up becoming a lead singer. After this gig, she took up multiple jobs in film and television before meeting Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry at the show The Lieutenant. She also became extremely popular for being a part of the first interracial kiss on American television, when her character famously locked lips with white leading man William Shatner's Captain James T. Kirk. Even though she wanted to step out after the first season, many convinced her to stay as she became a trailblazer for African-American actors and as an ambassador for NASA.


However, with the recent conservatorship involving her only child, Kyle Johnson, who is also her conservator; her former manager Gilbert Bell; and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette there was a three-way fight discussing Nichol’s dementia and the prospect of exploitation, Los Angeles Times reports. Johnson, her son, moved her from their home in Woodlands Hill to New Mexico. This, in the backdrop of the Free Britney movement, became an important example in understanding conservatorship and how it affects the person who is under the conservatorship. 


A lot of the argument focussed on who could authorize her healthcare, food, clothing and housing — as well as her estate and financial assets. It ended with Nichols not getting what she wanted, Fawcette mentioned. While Johnson assured the move was for his mother’s safety, friends of the Star Trek alum think otherwise. 

Her iconic life and efforts to support people in breaking the mold are what made Nichelle Nichols a true role model. Whether or not you're an actor. 

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