What happened to Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols (/nɪˈʃɛl/ nish-EL; born Grace Dell Nichols; December 28, 1932 – July 30, 2022)[1] was an American actress, singer and dancer whose portrayal of Uhura in Star Trek and its film sequels was groundbreaking for African American actresses on American television.[2] From 1977 to 2015, she volunteered her time to promote NASA’s programs and recruit diverse astronauts, including some of the first female and ethnic minority astronauts.[3][4]

Born in the Chicago suburb of Robbins, she trained in dance, and began her career as a dancer, singer and model in Chicago. As an actor, she appeared on stage, in television and in film.

Early life
Grace Dell Nichols was born the third of six children on December 28, 1932,[5][6][7] in Robbins, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, to Samuel Earl Nichols, a factory worker who was elected both town mayor of Robbins in 1929[8] and its chief magistrate, and his wife, Lishia (Parks) Nichols, a homemaker.[9] Disliking her name, Nichols asked her parents for a new one; they suggested Nichelle, which they said meant “victorious maiden” (from Nike and the suffix -elle).[10] The family later moved into an apartment in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago, where Nichols attended Englewood High School, graduating in 1951.[11][12] From age 12, she studied dance at the Chicago Ballet Academy.[13]

Nichols began her professional career as a singer and dancer in Chicago. She then toured the United States and Canada with the bands of Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. In 1959, she appeared as the principal dancer in the film version of Porgy and Bess.[13] Her acting break was an appearance in Kicks and Co., Oscar Brown’s highly touted but ill-fated 1961 musical.[14] In the thinly veiled satire of Playboy magazine, she played Hazel Sharpe, a voluptuous campus queen who was tempted by the devil and Orgy Magazine to become “Orgy Maiden of the Month”. Although the play closed after a short run in Chicago, Nichols attracted the attention of Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, who booked her as a singer for his Chicago Playboy Club.[15][16] She also appeared as Carmen for a Chicago stock company production of Carmen Jones and performed in a New York production of Porgy and Bess. Between acting and singing engagements, she did occasional modeling.[17]

In January 1967, Nichols was also featured on the cover of Ebony magazine, and had two feature articles in it in five years.[18] She continued touring the US, Canada, and Europe as a singer with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton.[19] On the West Coast, she appeared in The Roar of the Greasepaint and For My People, and garnered high praise for her performance in the James Baldwin play Blues for Mister Charlie. Prior to being cast as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek, Nichols was a guest actress on television producer Gene Roddenberry’s first series The Lieutenant (1964) in the episode “To Set It Right”, which dealt with racial prejudice.[20]

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