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Celebrities Mourn the Death of Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols

Nichols died of natural causes at the age of 89.
  • Nichelle Nichols (Photo: Fathom Events/Everett Collection)
    Nichelle Nichols (Photo: Fathom Events/Everett Collection)

    Celebrities are mourning the death of Star Trek actor Nichelle Nichols, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 89.

    Nichols played Enterprise crew member Lt. Nyota Uhura on the series and in several of the Star Trek films.

    Nichols' son, Kyle Johnson, shared the news of her death on her website on Sunday, saying, "Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration." He added, "Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all."

    When Star Trek first premiered in 1966, Nichols was one of the few Black women in a major role on a primetime TV series. She was also a part of one of the first interracial kisses on television, when her character kissed James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner.

    Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. called Nichols' role in the series "the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a Black woman in television history."

    After the original Star Trek's three-season run, Nichols also helped NASA make the agency more diverse, recruiting astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Guion Bluford, and more.

    Following news of Nichols' death, a number of notable figures, including George Takei, J.J. Abrams, William Shatner, Stacey Abrams, and Jason Alexander have paid tribute to the actor over social media.

    "I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise," Takei wrote on Twitter. "For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend."

    And co-star Shatner wrote, "I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Nichelle. She was a beautiful woman & played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US & throughout the world. I will certainly miss her. Sending my love and condolences to her family. Bill."

    Even NASA paid tribute to the trailblazing actor, saying, "We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek actor, trailblazer, and role model, who symbolized to so many what was possible. She partnered with us to recruit some of the first women and minority astronauts, and inspired generations to reach for the stars."

    Nichols is survived by her son, Kyle Johnson.

    Deena ElGenaidi's writing has been featured in Nylon, MTV News, Insider, The AV Club, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @deenaelg.

    TOPICS: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek