Picture
That's a photo of me dressed as Lt. Uhura at the very first science fiction convention I ever attended. I think the year was 1977 or 1978, which would put me around 18 years old. I remember trying to figure out what the hell to dress up as, since at the time, none of the commonly recognized characters or creatures in popular science fiction and fantasy reflected me or my culture. None that I could think of, anyway. Except Ororo Munroe and Lt. Uhura. This was half a decade before Tina Turner as Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (and God, do I still ever want that chainmail dress!) Years before Grace Jones as Zula in Conan the Destroyer, May Day in the Bond movie A View to a Kill, and Katrina, the 2000 yr-old vampire in Vamp. It was about 22 years before the uncomfortable portrayal of Sineya, the first Slayer, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and 18 years before the equally uncomfortable portrayal of Kendra Young, the Jamaican? (What was that accent they gave the actress supposed to be, exactly?) Slayer. It was decades before Zoë Alleyne Washburne in Firefly and Serenity, and even Patience Phillips in the ill-fated Halle Berry version of Catwoman. Are you getting the word picture I'm painting here? I could have gone as a creature from Caribbean folklore, but I was almost certain to be the only one at GVSTAcon with any knowledge of Caribbean folklore, and I didn't want to have to explain what I was depicting.

I couldn't pull off cosplay as Storm. The cost of the haircut and hair-bleaching alone was way beyond my budget at the time, never mind the contact lenses. (Were contact lenses even a thing back then? I can't remember.) But Uhura? She was pretty close to perfect for what I wanted.

You can't tell in the picture, but I wore my hair straightened in those years, so that part of the look was covered. I sewed the costume myself, based on a book of Star Trek paraphernalia descriptions I saw in Toronto's Bakka Books. I remember scouring the fabric stories for cheap fabric with the right colour, weight and hand.

The costume is fairly accurate, except I couldn't bring myself to make the bloomers they supposedly wore under those skimpy dresses. So I made the dress a tad bit longer and wore regular tights.

Nichelle Nichols, you were there when I needed you, and not just in terms of taking part in a costume parade. Because you were and are visible where you are visible, you make it possible for other Black women to be seen, too. Thank you.