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STAR TREK’S Nichelle Nichols Feted by Former NASA Astronaut Mae Carol Jemison and Others at Her 85th Birthday Celebration


Her role blazed a path to the stars for future NASA Astronaut Mae Carol Jemison and so many others

by Dr. Laura Wilhelm, LauraWil Intercultural

West Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/30/17 – In Hollywood, stars shine on-screen and stage.  In space, their light shines more literally.

Actress Nichelle Nichols encountered both kinds of stars when she joined the cast of the original STAR TREK television series (1966-1969) as communications officer Lieutenant Uhura.  Her trailblazing character was eventually promoted in Starfleet to the rank of commander in the succeeding motion pictures.  Lieutenant Uhura is considered the first non-stereotypical television role played by a black woman.

As such, Uhura broke new ground in US society.  Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. personally asked Nichols to remain on  when she considered leaving the series during its first year to pursue a Broadway career.

STAR TREK “You can’t leave,” King reportedly said.  “You’re part of history!”

President Obama and Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols Flashing Vulcan Salutes.

Nichols met with another prominent fan, former US President Barack Obama, in 2012.  There in the Oval Office, Obama unabashedly confessed to his youthful crush on Lieutenant Uhura!

Nichelle Nichols studied in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles and worked as a dancer, singer, and model.  She toured the US, Canada, and Europe with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands.

Prior to STAR TREK, Nichols was a guest actress on Gene Roddenberry’s first series THE LIEUTENANT (1964) in an episode dealing with racial prejudice titled “To Set It Right.”  She has documented all of these Hollywood highlights and many more in her 1994 autobiography BEYOND UHURA: STAR TREK AND OTHER MEMORIES.

Nichols pictured in 1982 film “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

After STAR TREK was canceled in 1969, Nichols enthusiastically volunteered in a special project with NASA to recruit minority and female personnel.  Among those recruited were Dr. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut; and Guion Bluford, the first African-American astronaut!  Mae Carol Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, has cited Lieutenant Uhura as her inspiration for wanting to become an astronaut.

Mae Jemison joined Nichelle Nichols at her 85th birthday celebration along with many other fans, friends, and family members on the evening of Thursday, December 28th, 2017 at La Piazza Italian Restaurant at The Grove.  This reporter spoke briefly with Jemison on the red carpet about ongoing interdisciplinary science projects.

Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) – Uhura ( Nichelle Nichols )

And shaking hands with the woman who played Lieutenant Uhura, arguably the world’s most famous communications worker, was truly a career milestone that will hopefully augur well for the New Year!  The ensuing exchange went more or less like this:

THT (LW): Do you think the future for women in aerospace looks bright?

NN: Well, I did it!  If I could do it, anybody can.

THT (LW): Both my father and brother are scientists in Southern California.  I always thought I wanted to be a scientist, too–but here I am reporting for Hollywood instead.

Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura played by Nichelle Nichols.

NN: Then that is what you were meant to do!

Those warm words and the even warmer smile that accompanied them will not soon be forgotten.  If LIEUTENANT UHURA said them, that must mean something!

Judging from the guest list, it looked like the one and only Nichelle Nichols had quite an evening in store for her.  Actor/singer Robert Davi, actress/singer Carmen Carter, actress/producer Angelique Fawcette, writer/director Steven Fawcette, and singer Chantel Steinreich, among others, were scheduled to attend.

Nichelle Nichols (Actress-Star Trek: TOS) and Celeste Yarnall (Actress-Star Trek: TOS) at the “Unbelievable” Movie Premiere at the TCL Chinese 6

Hilariously, the hyper-gorgeous VIVA GLAM Founder/CEO Katarina Van Derham–billed as the most successful Slovak in Hollywood–was sure she had met this reporter somewhere before like almost everyone else everywhere she goes whether or not she is reporting.  Van Derham and Nichols appear together in the upcoming sci-fi film UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!–which certainly describes both of these out of this world ladies.

Nichelle Nichols of ‘Star Trek’ fame appears at East Coast Comicon

Nichelle Nichols was duly celebrated as one of the sexiest women of STAR TREK in a 2016 VIVA GLAM article commemorating the 50th anniversary of the series.  Please follow this link to read it:


Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura from Star Trek


Regrettably, the red carpet for this stellar event was all this reporter had time to attend during the busy holiday season.  But as Nichelle Nichols herself realized, small steps are bigger than no steps at all.  Be all you can be wherever you are, and the entire universe will take notice one day!