a tribute to Nichelle Nichols

So while I'm going all fangirl here, I've got one more I'd like to share. If you haven't heard this story by now, you're probably not a Trekkie, or a Nichelle Nichols fan (like me). I recently read an interview with Nichols where she talked again about wanting to quit the series midway through the first season. I can't find the original article now, but a good summation is here. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked Nichols into staying with the series, because she provided a non-stereotypical African-American role-model.

She did something else too. She provided a role model for young women everywhere.

During the late 60s and early 70s, there were a variety of women characters, both on television and in real life, but there wasn't much in between Mary Tyler Moore and Gloria Steinman. Either you were sweetly trying to insert yourself into the workforce or you were burning your bra.

Nichols was perfect as Uhura, a woman she portrayed as beautiful, intelligent, and in command of herself at all times. While the rest of the crew was running from side to side like brainless sheep, there was Uhura, holding her position, rocking a mini-skirt, and keeping the lines of communication open. On-screen, the other characters treated her with respect and trusted her judgment.

Whether it was Nichols' inner essence that shined through or the way she portrayed her character, she had (and still has) an amazing presence. Whenever I thought of an empowered woman, my young mind always conjured images of Uhura.

So while Nichols did fulfill King's request to provide a positive role-model for African Americans, she quite unwittingly provided another kind of role-model to young women everywhere. She showed us we could be in touch with our feelings, yet be tough when the circumstances warranted. She proved that women could hold positions of authority with grace and verve.

I have a great deal of respect for Nichols--she put aside her career on stage multiple times to become Uhura for us, and with each episode and each movie, she brought something fresh to the character.

What about you? Do you have a fictional character that made an impression on you when you were young?