Nichelle Nichols

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Nichelle Nichols (born Grace Nichols; December 28, 1932) is an American actress, singer and voice artist. She sang with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before turning to acting. Her most famous role is that of communications officer Lieutenant Uhura aboard the USS Enterprise in the popular Star Trek television series, as well as the succeeding motion pictures, where her character was eventually promoted in Starfleet to the rank of commander. In 2006, she added executive producer to her résumé.

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Early life

Nichols was born in Robbins, Illinois, near Chicago, the daughter of Lishia (née Parks) and Samuel Earl Nichols, a factory worker who was both the town mayor of Robbins and its chief magistrate.[1] Later, the family moved into an elegant apartment in Chicago.

She studied in Chicago as well as New York and Los Angeles. Her big break came in an appearance in Kicks and Co., Oscar Brown, Jr.'s highly touted, but ill-fated musical. In the thinly-veiled satire of Playboy magazine, she played Hazel Sharpe, a voluptuous campus queen who was being tempted by the devil and Orgy Magazine to become "Orgy Maiden of the Month." Although the play closed after its brief try-out in Chicago, in an ironic twist, she attracted the attention of Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner, who was so impressed with her appearance that he booked her immediately at his Chicago Playboy Club.[2][3] While still in Chicago, she performed at the "Blue Angel", and in New York, Nichols appeared at that city's "Blue Angel" as a dancer and singer.[citation needed] She also appeared in the role of Carmen for a Chicago stock company production of Carmen Jones and performed in a New York production of Porgy and Bess. Between acting and singing engagements, Nichols did occasional modeling work.

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