Celebrating Nichelle Nichols’ 85th Birthday!

Before I met my husband, I admit, I was not much of a sci-fi fan at all. Or, pop culture person, you might say. I’d certainly gotten hilarious looks from other guys I dated when I might mention, very casually, that I’ve never seen Star Wars or Star Trek. And, while I thought it was funny, the look of horror I recall on a guy’s face when I sincerely asked what was the name of the Simpsons baby, Maggie. I have always had my own favorites that I find cool, and have never really cared what others think.

Then, enter my now-husband, Mike. He has introduced me to such a vast variety of TV and films I now love. From movies that now rank among my favorites like Fight Club and the Alien series, to shows like South Park and Firefly, Mike has definitely broadened my horizons.

Another series among my favorites now is Star Trek. We finished the original series awhile back, went through all the films (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Captain Kirk and Spock in the Voyage Home, where the men come down to San Francisco and attempt to save the whales. It sounds far-fetched but it was great) and now, although it feels like a snail’s process, we are making our way through the Next Generation. you can imagine how excited I was when I was invited to cover the red carpet arrivals for Nichelle Nichols 85th birthday party this week at La Piazza restaurant inside the Grove LA.

Nichols is perhaps best known for her groundbreaking role as Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek series from 1966 to 1969. In an era when most African-American actors were solely offered roles playing a maid, bellman or porter, Nichols’ Uhura was right there with the big boys on the star ship Enterprise. Her place on television was so legendary that, when she toyed with the idea of leaving the show, Mr. Martin Luther King himself pleaded with her to reconsider staying. It was the only show he and his wife, Coretta, let their children stay up late to watch as at the time, she was literally the only person of color with a role of purpose on television.

Nichelle giving us the infamous Live Long and Prosper hand sign
With Astronaut and friend, Mae Jemison.

If that is not honorable enough, the kiss shared by the Lieutenant and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) was the first inter racial kiss on TV.

After Star Trek ended, Nichols began volunteering her time to NASA, working to recruit minorities and females into the Space Program. She helped launch Women in Motion to assist with those recruits, and it was such a success, that many familiar astronaut names you know now, including Dr. Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, thank their accomplishments to Nichols and her influence.

Something that is clear is that Nichols adores her fans. A common name among the Star Trek conventions, Nichols decided to celebrate her birthday with 35 fans at a gorgeous celebratory dinner here in Los Angeles. Fans had several options for exciting packages that included dinner, a meet and greet and a VIP experience to have dinner at Nichols table.

Looking absolutely stunning in a gold gown with sparkles and ruffles, it was such an adorable moment when her dear friend, Mae Jemison arrived. As Nichols lit up when she turned around and noticed Mae embracing her, their hug was so mighty that one of Nichelle’s gorgeous earrings got caught on Mae! It was such a sweet, innocent moment between friends.

While Nichols is the absolute pioneer woman, I also love the fact that she has a strong background as a jazz singer and toured with some of the greats like Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington. I had the opportunity to have a quick chat with the birthday girl, and asked her what it was like working with a legend like Ellington. “Oh my God, it was wonderful” she said as her eyes grew wider, “It was like growing up and thinking about something and before you grew up, it happened!”

I had wondered what Nichols secret is to looking so amazing at 85. With so much enthusiasm and being so full of life within her personality, I think this could be one of the icon’s secrets!

With a role in the new sci-fi comedy film, Unbelievable!!!, I think it’s safe to say that Nichols is not retiring anytime soon. Keep up with her and learn more about up-coming appearances on her Twitter page. xo

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