As fans and friends continue to mourn the loss of Nichelle Nichols, those that she inspired are paying tribute to the legendary Star Trek actress. The Black women who have continued her legacy in the franchise and in space are celebrating the trailblazer’s influence and impact.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Zoe Saldaña, who plays Uhura in the latest iteration of Star Trek films, posted a tribute to Nichols on Instagram. The Marvel star reflected on her relationship with the legend and how she encouraged her to make Uhura her own.
“I knew I had big shoes to fill when I was chosen to play Uhura, and Nichelle made me feel safe, told me to play her with all the confidence in the world,” Saldaña wrote. “My hope is that we continue to keep her memory alive by celebrating her amazing body of work, and by spreading the message of peace and equality amongst all people. She lived a long, impactful life and not only prospered but helped so many others prosper too.”
Saldaña portrayed Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in 2009’s Star Trek, as well as its follow-ups, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness and 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. She’s set to reprise the role in a recently announced fourth film.
“Her energy was infectious every time I was in her presence. She convinced me in believing that anything was achievable, if you put your heart into it,” Saldaña continued. “I mean, she inspired Mae Jemison to follow her dreams of becoming an astronaut and that’s exactly what Mae did.”
Dr. Jemison, who has been very vocal about Nichols’ impact on her life tweeted, “@NichelleIsUhura is forever for me the embodiment of grace, daring, intelligence, fun, inspiration, beauty, talent & the future. Today I am heart-sad at her passing. I consider our dearest friendship a great treasure & privilege in my life.”
Star Trek’s newest Uhura, Strange New Worlds’ Celia Rose Gooding, tweeted about how inspiring her predecessor was.
“She made room for so many of us. She was the reminder that not only can we reach the stars, but our influence is essential to their survival,” Gooding wrote. “Forget shaking the table, she built it! #RIPNichelleNichols”
“Nichelle was the first Black person I’d ever seen who made it to the future,” she recalled. “She was head of communications. This show and this woman was a beacon that said, ‘Yes, we’ll be there.’ And it just made me feel like that was an amazing thing, and she helped propel other women to go into space.”
Because Star Trek is a never-ending franchise that constantly has new fans discovering it for the first time, Nichols’ influence will live far beyond three seasons of television and six movies.
“Maya Angelou once said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ I agree with this statement with the exception of Nichelle Nichols,” Saldana wrote. “It’ll be hard to forget what she said and hard to forget what she did, and it will certainly be impossible to forget how she made us feel.”