Uhura is Brightening Another Galaxy
Like so many other people, I was saddened to hear that Nichelle Nichols, one of the most positive, beloved actors I can think of, had died.
I’ve already written about how I had the privilege and honor of visiting for a short time with three “Ladies of Star Trek,” including my childhood idol and role model, Nichelle Nichols/“Lt. Uhura” from the original Star Trek series.
Idols and role models aren’t always the same thing. For a time when I was in elementary school, I would come home from school and watch Star Trek before heading to softball practice, doing yard chores, or pretending I was a wilderness explorer. Most people would have said I was a tomboy, but I liked my Barbie dolls a lot — when I wasn’t operating on them to see how their legs worked.
I’m sitting here, tears streaming down my cheeks remembering how I would try to model my posture gracefully after Uhura’s motions.
How I wanted beautiful nails like hers. Shining brown eyes, a soft yet strong voice, beautiful hair.
I wanted to be confident, sophisticated, strong, and wise: like Uhura.
I just loved her so much.
It never crossed my 10-year-old mind that I wasn’t supposed to idolize Nichelle Nichols and Uhura this way because she was Black.
And I was Caucasian.
Years later, I read how Nichelle had wanted to quit Star Trek to pursue other performing opportunities, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told her that her role was too important, and asked her to continue. She agreed, and Lt. Uhura went on to be a role model for countless others.
I’ve written before about how when many noted women die, their obituaries refer primarily to their external appearance or their marital status. In Nichelle’s case, she was such an elegant and flawless performer, and her influence was so great, that most of her obituaries are more respectful, in-depth, and detailed.
But they still focus only on her status, similar to Jackie Robinson in Major League Baseball, as the first Black American to take a leading role in an endeavor that had…