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Wed, 12.28.1932

Nichelle Nichols, TV, Actress born

Nichelle Nichols

*Nichelle Nichols was born on this date in 1932. She was a Black actress, singer, and dancer.

Grace Dell Nichols was born the third of six children in Robbins, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Her father was Samuel Earl Nichols, a factory worker elected both town mayor of Robbins in 1929 and its chief magistrate, and her mother was Lishia (Parks) Nichols, a homemaker. Later, the family moved into an apartment in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago. From age 12, she studied dance at the Chicago Ballet Academy. Nichols graduated from Englewood High School in 1951.

Nichols began her professional career as a singer and dancer in Chicago. She then toured the United States and Canada with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands. In 1959, she appeared as the principal dancer in the film version of Porgy and Bess Nichols' acting break came in an appearance in Kicks and Co., Oscar Brown's highly touted but ill-fated 1961 musical. In a thinly veiled satire of Playboy magazine, she played Hazel Sharpe, a voluptuous campus queen who the devil and Orgy Magazine were tempted 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.

She also appeared in the role of 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, Nichols did occasional modeling work. In 1967, Nichols also was featured on the cover of Ebony magazine and had two feature articles in the publication in five years. As a singer, Nichols continued touring the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Before 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 an episode, "To Set It Right." On Star Trek, Nichols was one of the first Black women featured in a major television series. In 1994, Nichols published her autobiography Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories. Between the end of the original series and the Star Trek animated series and feature films, Nichols appeared in minor television and film roles. She was twice nominated for the Chicago theatrical Sarah Siddons Award for Best Actress.

Nichols played a recurring role in the second season of the NBC drama Heroes. In June 2015, Nichols suffered a mild stroke at her Los Angeles home and was admitted to a Los Angeles–area hospital. On August 30, 2016, she was in the soap opera The Young and the Restless. In early 2018, Nichols was diagnosed with dementia and announced her retirement from convention appearances. Following a legal dispute over the actions of her manager-turned-caretaker Gilbert Bell, her son Kyle Johnson filed for conservatorship in 2018. That dispute and a 2019 court case by Bell over being evicted from the guesthouse on Nichols' property were ongoing as of August 2021. Nichols died of heart failure in Silver City, New Mexico, on July 30, 2022, at 89. Her ashes will be sent into space alongside Majel Barrett's and Douglas Trumbull's.

To become an Actor or Actress

Reference:

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