Space, the final frontier, not only of unexplored mystery and possibility, but also of fashion. Nichelle Nichols first joined the crew of the USS Enterprise in 1966 as Nyota Uhura. This character would soon change history.
At first, “Star Trek” just felt like a cheap little show cobbled together on NBC to fill some airspace and let people see a campy space show. Instead, it proved a vessel not only to show the future we could have in the next hundred years, but also the future we could make right now.
During the show’s original airing, the Civil Rights Movement was in full effect. Nichols, obtaining a role she wanted, was fully prepared to leave the show, until a calm voice told her to stay. That voice belonged to civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He told her that “Star Trek” was the one show that he allowed his daughters to watch late since it showed a Black woman in a place of power and equality. This gave her the drive to stay on the show and also share the first interracial kiss on national television.
The rest is history.
As God beamed Nichols up to heaven, we are left with her amazing legacy, which led Black girls, like me, into STEM and also interested in her ethereal looks. Many people of color, and especially Black girls have been fascinated with the “space girl” aesthetic. A blend of ‘60s and ‘70s style hairdos and colorful makeup. This especially is shown in the cover art for Beyoncè’s latest album, “Renaissance.”
The shining galactic horse, the diamonds covering up her body and the dark background evoking the endless void of space. This is space girl Black excellence to the highest potential, and it couldn’t have been created without the trailblazing Nichols to lead the way forward. Not only was Beyoncè inspired by her, but also artists such as Doja Cat on her album, “Planet Her,” especially on the video for the song “Kiss Me More.”
Finally, we have the Black princess of pop, Rihanna, who did a song for 2016’s “Star Trek Beyond,” called “Sledgehammer.” In this video, instead of portraying herself as Uhura or even a human member of Starfleet, Rihanna appears as an alien.
The contributions that Nichols left us are legendary and have not only inspired many, but also myself. It was her boundary breaking role that showed Black people that the sky is not just the limit, but also the stars. Of all the souls that I have known, hers was the most human.