Nichelle Nichols was born Grace Nichols on December 28, 1932 in Robbins, Illinois. She began her show business career at age 16 as a singer with Duke Ellington in a ballet she created for one of his compositions and later sang with his band. After switching to acting, she was twice nominated for the Sarah Siddons Award for best actress in “The Blacks” and “Kicks and Company”. Her film debut found her dancing with Sammy Davis Jr. in Porgy and Bess (1959). A guest appearance on The Lieutenant (1963) led to an offer from Gene Roddenberry to join the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series (1966). Her best known role on the series is communications officer Lieutenant Nyota Uhura. She later repeated her role in a string of successful Star Trek films: Star Trek (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).
Invited to join the board of directors of the National Space Institute, NASA asked her to participate in its astronaut recruitment programme for the space shuttle project. Three of her recruits were on the ill-fated Challenger mission. For her work, she received NASA’s distinguished Public Service Award. She has a consultant firm, Women in Motion Inc. through which she produced and starred in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum film “What’s in It for Me?”. With all this, she has not neglected her singing making a series of video albums the latest being “Nichelle Nichols: Live at Disneyland”.
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