Legendary Actress And Trailblazing ‘Star Trek’ Icon Nichelle Nichols Dies at 89

Nichelle Nichols, most notable for her portrayal of Nyota Uhura in ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ and an avid NASA recruiter for people of color and female astronauts, dies of natural causes.

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We mourn the loss of a legendary icon, Nichelle Nichols, whose television presence was only an ounce of the inspiration she left for a generation of women and young girls. According to Entertainment Weekly, her son Kyle Johnson confirmed the news of her passing on her official Instagram account. Her role as Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer on the starship U.S.S. Enterprise, in the original 1960s “Star Trek” was groundbreaking for black actresses, as she was one of the first Black actresses to star in a prime television show. Nichols will forever be recognized as a trailblazer, and her efforts to encourage others led her to reach for real-life stars.

A Groundbreaking Star

An American actress, singer, and dancer, Nichelle Nichols was resilient in her career, changing the lives of many by her mere presence in a room. Not only did Nichols spend decades in the spotlight for the science fiction series “Star Trek,” but she dedicated much of her life to music and activism. She was a powerhouse in every aspect of her career, influencing a generation of black women and girls.

Nichelle Nichols on “Star Trek,” IMAGE VIA BLOOMBERG

In addition to being one of the first Black actresses to star in a prime television show, Nichol’s role was one of the first times audiences watched a Black woman portrayed in a non-stereotypical way. Also, she made history when she shared the first on-screen interracial kiss with co-star William Shatner in 1966. She broke the stereotype barrier among black actors and actresses that would become the standard for every film or TV-series to follow. This new set principle in television required space for people of different races, ethnicities, and genders to coexist with equal opportunities.

A Star In Every Aspect

One cannot simply sum up the legendary Nichelle Nichols by adjectives. Her actions in the trinity of music, television, and activism speak for her. None other than jazz icon Duke Ellington discovered Nichols in her mid-teens. She went on to tour with Ellington and Lionel Hampton as a lead singer and dancer before she starred in the one-woman musical called “Reflections.” Eventually, she utilized her singing skills numerous times on “Star Trek.”

Nichelle Nichols, IMAGE VIA PARADE

After the first season of “Star Trek” faced poor ratings, Nichols contemplated leaving the show to pursue her Broadway career. However, a once devoted Trekkie and another well-known icon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., convinced her otherwise as he confessed that it was the only show he watched with his children. We can assume that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s words were enough to inspire Nichols to stay.

As the show started to gain more attention and appreciation, so did Nichols on a personal level. Among the fans were NASA employees who attended various “Star Trek” conventions. At one of these conventions, Nichols gave a speech to members of NASA and pointed out the lack of women or minorities present. The head of NASA, in attendance, recognized her point as a necessary action and offered her the opportunity to recruit for them. Following this event, she founded the company “Women in Motion” and dedicated her time to recruiting women and people of color for NASA throughout the country. In her efforts, Nichols recruited Guion Bluford, the first African-American male astronaut, and Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut.

Legacy Never Fades

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Nichelle Nichols leaves behind a beautiful legacy of inspiration for black women and girls. A role model, champion, and a true star, Nichols’s life is incomparable, especially in her influence. Forever, we are touched by her brave spirit that will undoubtedly continue to shine through every galaxy.