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Uhura – The Power of a Female Lieutenant [Guest]

Guest blogger Nicole Ayers breaks down the power of that wonderful black female that is Uhura.

Above Image: Star Trek Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols)

Many of you know Nicole from her awesome movie blog MadLabPost.com. She's taken time out of her busy schedule putting the finishing touches on her upcoming short film Abyss, to write a post about the wonderful Star Trek woman Uhura (Nichelle Nichols).

Here's Nicole!

Although I’m not one to celebrate Halloween, I dressed as Uhura for a party a few years ago. This costume beat my initial choices of firefighter and race car driver for two reasons. I often watched “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as a kid but Uhura is currently the only female from the series with a costume that is based on her character. In addition, I was almost certain that no other woman would wear the same costume. Having not paid much attention to this lieutenant earlier in life, I have now come to realize that she is a force to be reckoned with. The leading lady represents powerful lessons that, when applied to my experiences working in film, have transformed the way I approach a project – including the short movie Abyss, written and directed by me.

Power move: Uhura did her thing first and foremost without being centered on her physical appeal to the masses. It is a point I try to keep in mind when attending social affairs that would normally cause me to obsess over wardrobe, hair and makeup selections.

Despite Zoe Saldana’s 2009 depiction of Uhura being cited as the hottest science fiction character, in a 2012 poll, I’d be more likely to vote for Nichols’ Uhura. Nichols dress has a sexier style, in terms of femininity. Either way, there is no denying the fact that this Star Trek character’s appeal goes well beyond looks. She is both beauty and brains – a combination that isn’t always recognized in women. We’re either seen as hot dumb broads (Kelly Bundy) or smart gals who the cool kids and cute guys make fun of (“Ugly Betty,” anyone?) – Unless we can find ways to buck this trend.

In the summer of 2012, I went to a New York film premiere and spent around 15-30 minutes getting dressed for this screening. The most important goal was to be clean, presentable, comfortable and ready to work. My primary focus was on making sure that I had a notepad, business cards, pens and related materials that would help me obtain coverage of the event for my blog and other websites. While in Brooklyn following the screening, a cop invited me to hang out with him at a local lounge, after asking for my phone number.

Although I didn’t go to the lounge, I found it interesting how I was not focused on being cute that day; I was doing my own thing, yet, was still found appealing enough for a guy to ask me out. It shows that while looks are important, focusing just on looks won’t get you very far. If I spent an hour or more on my appearance, I could have possibly been late to the screening and missed opportunities to meet people that could provide necessary information for my articles. By focusing on my interests and the writing tasks at hand, however, I ended up getting the best of both worlds.

Power move: Uhura challenged people to explore new worlds – literally and figuratively, by using their skills as a gateway for a wider spectrum of opportunities.

NASA’s hiring of Nichols to help recruit more African Americans into the program -- which resulted in three women joining – is a testament to how she motivates people to surpass their own perceived limitations. Mae Jemison -- the first African American woman astronaut, even cited Uhura as being her influence in wanting to join NASA. So the fictional character and the actress who played her served as inspiration for people who may have otherwise never even considered a possible career in space.

The spreading of their wings reminds me of Temple University graduate Aleywa Taylor, who was heading for a career in television when I hired her to be the First Assistant Director of “Abyss.” Aside from cinematographers, this was my first time working with additional crew members on a movie that I wrote and directed. It was a learning experience for both of us – one that has led to Taylor expressing interest in also pursuing a new career path in film, rather than focusing solely on the Tube.

Power move: Uhura risked potential criticism and backlash by challenging the producers to stand behind their original ideas, in an all-or-nothing decision – which ended up making history.

The Star Trek producers shot two versions of Uhura and Captain Kirk’s scene for the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” – one featuring a kiss and one without it -- to cover themselves in case NBC didn’t want to air the kiss. Nichols and William Shatner deliberately messed up their alternate takes, so the one where their kiss was included would be the only usable take. It took me several months to write the script for “Abyss” and longer than expected to cast the movie, find locations and move into production. Just when I thought about shelving this whole idea, I remembered a conversation that I had during lunch with a friend, where we discussed my script and production budget woes. I said this movie is going to be made, “come hell or high water” – a declaration that has come, and is coming to fruition.

Unlike Uhura, I don’t know if any aspect of this journey will make history -- but I would do it all over again because it beats looking back on the previous year and wondering “what if…” while realizing that my actions, habits and progress right now reflect the same things that I was doing this time last year. I didn’t want to feel stagnant or put myself in that position, so I set out to make a movie, in an effort to not only change the course of my life but to also keep progressing forward rather than being stuck in the same ol’ rut or going backward. So for better or worse, this movie is here to stay. Between the time that I finished the script and now, there have been many times where I was moments away from not having anywhere to live or food on the table.

Still, I’d do it again because I know that if I spent all my time, energy and money on trivial things, then I would’ve been watching the Oscars this year wondering what it would be like to make a movie. Just imagine if Uhura didn’t force those kissing scenes to work in her favor, she could have probably ended up watching more African-American actresses on television shows that don’t show interracial contact and wondering if the day will come when it will happen on screen. Much like Uhura, I don’t have to wonder or fantasize what it would be like to obtain a goal – because I’m already making it happen – by any means necessary!
Uhura is the kind of woman who not only makes us want to reach the stars – she creates opportunities for us to actually do it! She is a character deserving of applause, respect and admiration.

Nicole Ayers is a writer and director currently raising funds on IndieGoGo for the film festival premiere of her most recent film, “ABYSS.” The movie is about an Army Officer who gets stranded at a bus stop in Philadelphia after his marriage proposal takes a horrible turn. Nicole also blogs about adventures in cinema at The Madlab Post and can be found @MadlabPost on Twitter.

Thanks Nicole! Make sure you check out Nicole's Abyss Indiegogo campaign to raise $12,000 to cover the cost of film festival submission fees, travel expenses, press materials, shipping, DVD authoring and replication for the theatrical and television broadcast premieres.

What do you think of Uhura? Did she inspire you or someone you know to do great things?
[Image Source: http://www.democraticunderground.com]

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  1. I can't say she was a role model for me for kind of obvious reasons, but clearly her contributions were important to a lot of people.

  2. Nichelle Nichols was a role model for Whoopi Goldberg, and the reason Guinan was created. She also did a mean earplug. I still prefer Zoe Saldana.

  3. Thanks Maurice, for hosting my guest post on Star Trek's Uhura! I appreciate you featuring me and the latest short film "Abyss" here on The Geek Twins.

  4. Tony, I forgot that Whoopi Goldberg was on Star Trek, which is odd given the fact that I've watched more episodes featuring Guinan than any with Uhura. Zoe Saldana appears to have a little more spunk but nothing beats the original...especially if you consider this -- there would be no place for Saldana if it weren't for Nichols. The latter actress laid the foundation for the former actress to follow suit. Saldana does get much props for bringing her own flair to the role...it is certainly a nice sight to see.

  5. she made the world turn it's head... some good some bad, but for all the right reasons... she is a role model for many, she should be more than what the youth finds to be as role models today... she inspires to inspire.

  6. I loved Nichelle. I grew up in an era when there were few female role models, so I snapped up any who came along. One of the things I loved most about science fiction, was its optimism. Anything is possible.

  7. Great essay. Uhura really was a groundbreaking character and Nichelle was an inspiration to me.


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