‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols caught in conservatorship battle
Nichols' son, her former manager and a good friend appear to be waging a fight to oversee the finances of the aging actress.
Legendary actress Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, is caught in the middle of what has been a years-long conservatorship battle.
Nichols’ only child Kyle Johnson won a petition for conservatorship of the actress — who is suffering from dementia — in 2018. He alleged that her former manager, Gilbert Bell, had been living in Nichols’ guest home taking advantage of her finances and personal affairs.
A third party is involved in the case, a close friend whom Nichols named as her successor, Angelique Fawcette. She is pushing back against the conservatorship, saying that Nichols can manage her affairs.
The 88-year-old no longer lives in Los Angeles, where the case is playing out and where the actual home in question is located. She moved to New Mexico with her son and his wife amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A recent exploration in The Los Angeles Times compared Nichols’ case to that of singer Britney Spears, who remains under conservatorship, although her father, Jamie Spears, who was her estate’s previous conservator, has stepped down.
The #FreeBritney movement has raised awareness about conservatorship, which has long been used in cases like Nichols’ of those who are elderly and struggling with health problems.
Nichols was one of the first Black women on television to play a non-stereotypical role. Lt. Nyota Uhura was beautiful, well-spoken and a knowledgeable communications officer on Star Trek. Nichols appeared in the series and a string of feature films, plus lent her voice to an animated show.
Her character was beloved by Star Trek fans, and for years, Nichols traveled and attended conventions greeting admirers. She was able to book such events with the support of Bell, who helped grow her income.
In 2013, after a pancreatitis diagnosis due to heavy alcohol use, Nichols was admitted to a hospital. She later moved to a nursing facility, where she signed an advance health care directive and a general power of attorney naming Bell as her primary agent and Fawcette as her successor.
According to Fawcette, Johnson and Nichols’ other family members rarely engaged in her life.
All three parties — Johnson, Bell and Fawcette — may ultimately meet in court to decide Nichol’s fate, but for now, the pioneering actress remains in New Mexico with her kin, where her son says she lives in a rental home, and he is her primary caregiver.
A $200,000 GoFundMe effort has been established to help support the star, one started by her sister, Marian Nichols Smothers. It has raised just over $148,000.