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. She also voiced her cartoon self in the episode "Anthology of Interest I"' of the animated series Futurama.
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. Later, the family moved into an elegant apartment in Chicago after white residents fled because a single black family moved in.
She studied in Chicago as well as New York and Los Angeles. While still in Chicago, she performed at the "Blue Angel," and in New York, Nichols appeared at that city's "Blue Angel" and Playboy Club as a dancer and singer. 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.