Prior to being cast as Lt. Uhura in Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols had guested on Gene Roddenberry's first series, The Lieutenant.
Born in Robbins, Ill., near Chicago, Nichols grew up there where her father was both the town mayor and its chief magistrate. She has studied in Chicago as well as New York and Los Angeles, and while in New York she appeared at the famous Blue Angel and Playboy Clubs as a singer. She also appeared in the title role for a Chicago stock company production of "Carmen Jones."
Nichols toured the U.S., Canada and Europe as a singer with both the great Duke Ellington and the Lionel Hampton bands. On the West Coast, she appeared in "Roar of the Grease Paint, Smell of the Crowd," "For My People," and garnered high praise for her performance in the James Baldwin play, "Blues for Mr. Charlie." She was twice nominated for the Sara Siddon Award as best actress and is an accomplished dancer and singer. Her first Siddon nomination was for her portrayal of Hazel Sharp in "Kicks and Co.," and the second for her performance in "The Blacks."
And then came Star Trek. At the end of its first season, Nichols was thinking seriously of leaving the show, but a chance and moving meeting with Martin Luther King changed her mind. He told her she couldn't give up—that she was a vital role model for young black women in America. Needless to say, she stayed with the show and has appeared in first six Star Trek movies. She also provided the voice for Lt. Uhura on the Star Trek animated series in 1974-75.
Following Star Trek's cancellation in 1969, Nichols went on to appear in films like Mister Buddwing, Made in Paris, Porgy and Bess, and Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding!
Turning her sights toward her music, Nichols released a single, "Shoop Shoop," on 20th Century Records, and often sings at her convention appearances. She has also released an album, "Dark Side of the Moon," which includes the song she wrote in tribute to Gene Roddenberry, "Gene," and sang at Roddenberry's memorial service.
Always interested in space travel, Nichols flew aboard the C-141 Astronomy Observatory, which analyzed the atmospheres of Mars and Saturn, on an eight-hour, high-altitude mission. She was also special guest at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena on July 17, 1976 to view the Viking probe's soft landing on Mars. Along with the other cast members from the original Star Trek, she attended the christening of the first space shuttle, Enterprise, at Cape Canaveral. As she has since the 1970s, she also spends much time recruiting minorities for NASA.
Several years ago, she toured in a one-woman play where she portrayed many famous black female singers of the 20th century. Some of her hobbies are oil painting, designing her own clothes, reading science fiction and sculpting. She has also acted as spokesperson for her favorite charity, The Kwanzaa Foundation. Her biography, Beyond Uhura, was published in 1994.