Nichelle Nichols will continue to live long and prosper outside of the public eye. The original Uhura is officially retiring from the convention scene, per her own Twitter page, and she’s going out in style with a farewell celebration. The event will take place over May 1 – 3 in 2020, and will feature panels, autograph sessions, photo ops, exclusive merch, and a party, among other entertainment. It’s an epic way to wrap up a six-decades-long career that expands so much further than fictionalized space travel.
Nichols’ role as Star Trek’s Uhura broke television barriers by prominently featuring one of the first Black woman characters who was an equal among her peers. The brilliant lieutenant became a beacon of hope and inspiration to Black women and girls who dreamed of traveling among the stars or securing their rightful place in their dream careers. The series made the actress and Uhura essentially one entity in many people’s eyes, but the real Nichols is a vibrant, introspective, and powerful woman who has changed history off screen, too. So, it’s only fitting that we celebrate a few of her best IRL moments:
The Best Lady at a Trek Wedding
Nichelle Nichols remained close to several of her Star Trek comrades, including George Takei (a.k.a. Sulu). When he married Brad Altman in 2008, Nichelle was his right-hand person in the wedding party. But, instead of using the title “matron of honor,” she was instead dubbed Takei’s “best lady.” Honestly, there isn’t a better way to describe this icon.
A Career-Defining Fan Encounter
Uhura was nearly a one-season character until one very famous fan changed Nichols’ life. Civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. approached her as a fan and said she couldn’t leave because Uhura changed how Black people were portrayed on TV. Yes, her power and influence is that remarkable.
Her NASA Recruitment Video
If anyone can convince a person to join NASA, it’s Nichelle Nichols. She partnered with the organization in 1977 to recruit diverse employees for the agency’s Space Shuttle Program. Her involvement led to the hiring of NASA greats like Dr. Sally Ride, Colonel Guion Bluford, Ellison Onizuka, Dr. Ronald McNair, and Dr. Judith Resnik. Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, was inspired by Uhura and Nichols’ involvement in NASA, which led to her recruitment as well. A recent film titled Woman in Motion documents her quest during the nationwide search for talent.
Her Epic Roast of William Shatner
Nichelle Nichols’ use of Uhura and Kirk’s groundbreaking kiss for comedic fodder was perfection. She was a guest at Comedy Central’s Roast of William Shatner and told her former co-star that they could make television history once again with him kissing her black ass. It was one of many live-appearances that showed off Nichols’ sharp sense of humor, which is exactly why fans love her so much.
Prior to TV acting, Nichols sang with the likes of Duke Ellington and released two solo albums. She’s known for breaking out in song at conventions and speaking engagements. Outside of the Star Trek theme, she does a lovely version of “Summertime.” We love an icon with multiple talents.
A Journey with the SOFIA Telescope
In 2015, the actress flew on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), helping researchers and educators take infrared measurements from star forming regions in different constellations. The ten-hour mission was yet another accomplishment under Nichols’ belt and showed her continuing dedication to educate fans. And, did we mention this happened shortly after her recovery from a mild stroke two months prior? She’s truly unstoppable.
Of course, there are so many intimate fan moments, brilliant interviews, and delightful appearances from Nichelle Nichols’ wonderful life. It’s bittersweet to see her step away from the spotlight and her beloved fans, but she has given the world so much to cherish. She will leave the public eye but never our hearts.
What is your favorite Nichelle Nichols’ moment? Share it in the comments below.