Nichelle Nichols dead: Star Trek legend dies aged 89 as tributes pour in for ‘trailblazer’ | Celebrity News | Showbiz & TV
Nichelle Nichols, who is best known for her role in 1960s sci-fi TV series Star Trek, has died at the age of 89. Her son, Kyle Johnson, confirmed the news in an emotional Facebook post as tributes have flooded in for the “trailblazer”.
In a statement on Facebook, Mr Johnson said: “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.
“Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.”
He confirmed that his late mother died of natural causes.
American actress, Nichelle, broke barriers in her role as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the series, becoming one of the first black actresses in the US to play a figure in authority.
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She was later employed by Nasa in an effort to encourage more women and African-Americans to become astronauts.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) led the tributes for the beloved actress.
Taking to Twitter, the agency penned: “We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek actor, trailblazer, and role model, who symbolized to so many what was possible. She partnered with us to recruit some of the first women and minority astronauts, and inspired generations to reach for the stars.”
Actress Lynda Carter wrote: “Many actors become stars, but few stars can move a nation. Nichelle Nichols showed us the extraordinary power of Black women and paved the way for a better future for all women in media. Thank you, Nichelle. We will miss you.”
Star Trek actor George Takei said: “I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed today at age 89. For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend.”
Piers Morgan commented: “RIP Nichelle Nichols, 89 – a magnificent trailblazer as Lt. Uhura on TV’s original ‘Star Trek,’ and such a delightful lady. Sad news.”
Captain Kirk actor William Shatner wrote: “I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Nichelle. She was a beautiful woman & played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US & throughout the world. I will certainly miss her. Sending my love and condolences to her family. Bill.”
President Joe Biden, praised her as a “trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.”
His statement continued about her Star Trek role, “With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.”
The Star Trek TV series broke down stereotypes in the 1960s by casting black and minority actors in high-profile roles.
Ms Nicholls was cast in the series as Lt Uhura, who was portrayed as a competent and level-headed communications officer – shattering stereotypes.
In 1968, she and Star Trek star William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the series, broke new ground when they shared one of television’s first interracial kisses – though it was not a romantic one.
Despite her success, she had initially considered leaving the TV series but was convinced otherwise by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who described her character as the “first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a black woman in television history”.
She went on to feature in the first six Star Trek movies following the series’ end in 1969.
Ms Nicholls became an ambassador for the US space agency Nasa, helping to recruit women and minorities to its Space programme.