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Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek Actress

Source: Nichelle Nichols / Getty

Britney Spear’s battle with conservatorship has brought attention to other cases that have flown under the radar, like veteran Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols. A recent report from the Los Angeles Times highlighted the lengthy battle between three people who claim to have her best interest at heart.  

Her son Kyle Johnson, former manager Gilbert Bell and actress Angelique Fawcette. Johnson filed a petition for conservatorship in 2018, after Fawcette called him and his aunt panicked about Bell’s plan to marry Nichols. Bell told the Los Angeles Times that the arrangement was to protect Nichols financially.  

There has been a flurry of cross suits since the initial conservatorship was granted, with Bell trying to stop Johnson from removing him from living in a guest house on Nichols’ property. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Johnson, in turn, sued Bell, alleging he abused his role as Nichols’ manager and “misappropriated funds.”  

Eldercare can be a challenge for many caring for people like Nichols with dementia. According to the National Institute on Aging, women and those with dementia are more susceptible to elder abuse. 

There’s a fine line between respecting personal autonomy and decision-making and the perceived need to protect their assets and well-being from undue influence.  And a conservatorship, even in the best of intentions, can cross that line easily.

Also, funds spent maintaining a conservatorship, controlling a person’s properties, and finances can be costly. This leads to concerns that an individual’s hard-earned funds will maintain a relationship they may not even want. 

Fawcette has tried to intervene out of the belief that Nichols is coherent enough to make decisions about what she wants as she lives out her final days. Concerns have been raised about her well-being and whether she is allowed to live out her final days as she wishes. 

Nichols turns 89 later this year. She no longer lives in her home and has been moved closer to where her son lives in New Mexico. 

Reports last summer indicated Nichols’ family supported the conservatorship as a means of protecting her from Bell, who acquired the power of attorney and ownership of Nichols home.

Indiewire reported both Johnson and Bell had made accusations against each other, with Johnson alleging several instances of Bell exploiting his mother financially from a “sweetheart deal” on rent for his guest house to forcing her to enter into bad deals and even taking out a reverse mortgage. Bell has claimed Johnson allowed Nichols’s property, where Bell still resided, to fall into disrepair and stopped paying the utilities. 

Political consultant and disability advocate Neal Carter called out Nichols’ castmate George Takei for being silent on her situation while making a joke about conservatorship.

Not only did she inspire generations of Black nerds in their own quest through the deep unknown, but Nichols also inspired real-life astronauts as well. A new documentary documenting Nichols’ influence on NASA debuted earlier this spring. 

Her involvement with NASA helped increase diversity in recruitment and actively brought in more Black, Latino, and women engineers and scientists into the agency. She’s credited with recruiting NASA Mae Jemison, Sally Ride, and Ronald McNair. 

More than one-half of television’s first interracial kiss, Nichols played the lead character of the flagship show in what would become one of science fiction’s most beloved franchises. Lt. Uhura’s presence on-screen in the initial series and across several movies gave viewers of Black people in the future in a genre often written as white only.  

She was brilliant and Black—an example of what is possible in a future often written as unattainable and white.   

A GoFundMe created by Nichols’s younger sister, on behalf of her and their siblings, has a goal of $200,000 to help with Nichols’s care and recovery from alleged elder abuse attributed to Bell. Earlier reports indicate the GoFundMe was created to support legal fees in the ongoing lawsuit. Several updates on the fund concerning depositions and other matters have been provided.

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