Nichelle Nicholswho was beloved for playing the iconic role of Nyota Uhura on the television series, Star Trekand its films, died at the age of 89, Deadline reported. The actress’ death was announced by her son, Kyle Johnsonon July 31, according to the outlet, and journalist Yashar Ali took to Twitter to both announce the sad news and share Kyle’s message. “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” Kyle wrote in the beginning of the message.
Find out more about the legendary star and her legacy below.
Nichelle sang with Duke Ellington.
Nichelle, who was born in Robbins, IL, once danced with a jazz legend Duke Ellington in a ballet she created for one of his compositions. She also went on to sing with his band, making her mark as a musician in the jazz music industry. She discussed her time with Duke, including the important tidbits he told her, in the video above.
She was one of the first African American women to star in a major television series.
When she started playing her role on Star Trek, it was in 1966 and she made quite a lasting impression. In addition to the original series, she went on to star in the animated series Star Trek series as well as film versions of the show. She also starred in many other television series and films, including popular ones like Gargoyles, Futurama, Heroes, Snow Dogsand Are We There Yet?
Nichelle volunteered her time to promote NASA’s programs.
After Star Trek was cancelled, she devoted time to work with NASA to recruit minority and female personnel to the space agency. Part of what she did to help was to make an affiliation between NASA and a company called Women in Motion, which she helped run. Some of the people that were recruited were Dr. Sally Ridewho was the first American female astronaut, and the United States Air Force Colonel Guion Bluford, the first African-American astronaut.
She went on to fly on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Boeing 747SP in 2015 and was a special guest at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, on July 17, 1976, to watch the Viking 1 soft landing on Mars. In the mid 1980s, Nichelle served on the board of governors of the National Space Institute, a nonprofit space advocacy organization.
President Barack Obama had a crush on her.
Nichelle revealed that when she met the now former US president in the Oval Office in 2012, she asked him if the rumor that he had a crush on her when he was younger was true, and he said it was. “Months ago, [President] Obama was quoted as saying that he’d had a crush on me when he was younger,” she wrote in a tweet. “I asked about that and he proudly confirmed it! President Obama also confirmed for me that he was definitely a Trekker! How wonderful is that?!”
She also posted a photo of the two of them happily posing in the Oval Office, which can be seen here.
Nichelle wrote a tell-all autobiography in 1995.
In the memorable release, she revealed never-before-known details about her life, including how she dated Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry for a few years before Star Trek began in the 1960s. She claimed the relationship ended when she found out he was also romantically involved with her acquaintance, Majel Hudecwhom he went on to marry and cast as a nurse on the show.
Nichelle also wrote about the historic interracial kiss she was involved in. It was between her and her co-star William Shatnerwho played Captain Kirk on Star Trekand was considered the first interracial kiss on television.