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Star Trek legend Nichelle Nichols, who has dementia, involved in ‘heartbreaking’ conservatorship


Star Trek legend Nichelle Nichols is at the center of a bitter conservatorship battle between her son and her former manager amid accusations he exploited her.

The 88-year-old, who became one of the nation’s first black women to star in a primetime show after being cast in 1966 as Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, was diagnosed with dementia in 2018.

Since then, her son, Kyle Johnson successfully filed for conservatorship of his mother on the grounds that her health made her a prime target for exploitation by former manager Gilbert Bell, who spent about a decade living in a guest house on her Woodland Hills, California, property.

Johnson said he filed the conservatorship petition because he learned Bell had transferred Nichols’ home into his name as power of attorney in 2017, according to the Los Angeles Times.  

Further complicating the case is her friend Angelique Fawcette, who has also sought to become Nichols’ conservator after arguing that the actress deserved to live out her final days in the home she bought in 1983 for $100,000. 

Records show the home sold to a remodeling and construction company for $1.22million in July. Nichols currently lives in New Mexico with her son and his wife.

Star Trek legend Nichelle Nichols has been at the center of a bitter conservatorship battle between her son and her former manager. The 88-year-old, who is perhaps better known to Trekkies as Lt. Uhura, was diagnosed with dementia in 2018. Since then, her son Kyle Johnson (pictured in 2019) successfully filed for conservatorship 

The 88-year-old, who became one of the nation's first black women to star in a primetime show after being cast in 1966 as Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, was diagnosed with dementia in 2018. Pictured: Nicols with co-star William Shatner

The 88-year-old, who became one of the nation’s first black women to star in a primetime show after being cast in 1966 as Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, was diagnosed with dementia in 2018. Pictured: Nicols with co-star William Shatner 

Nichols' break-the-mold tendencies expanded beyond the screen and into space science. She volunteered with NASA from 1977 to 2015 to promote diversity in the recruiting of women and minority astronauts. The initiative led to the recruitment of Dr. Sally Ride, the nation’s first female astronaut

Nichols’ break-the-mold tendencies expanded beyond the screen and into space science. She volunteered with NASA from 1977 to 2015 to promote diversity in the recruiting of women and minority astronauts. The initiative led to the recruitment of Dr. Sally Ride, the nation’s first female astronaut

Inside Nichelle Nichols’ heartbreaking conservatorship case

1993: Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols purchases a Woodland Hills, California, property for $100,000

2012: Her former manager Gilbert Bell temporarily moves into a secondary house on the property 

2017: Nichols inexplicably signs a quitclaim, handing over her property title to Bell. Records show that same year, Bell signed his own quitclaim, returning the property into Nichols’ hands 

May 2018: Johnson files for a conservatorship, which is ultimately successful  

May 2018:  Nichols’ longtime friend Angelique Fawcette files an objection to Johnson’s petition

August 2018: News outlets report that Nichols was diagnosed with dementia; the exact date of diagnosis is unknown

 2019: Bell sues Johnson, accusing him of attempting to evict him and Nichols in order to sell the property 

2020: Johnson files a countersuit against Bell, alleging elder abuse, theft, fraud, and bilking of Nichols’ assets

2021: Property at center of contention sells to remodeling and construction company for $1.22million 

The initial conservatorship battle in 2018 triggered three years off lawsuits between the three parties. 

After the first conservatorship petition that year, Bell’s power of attorney was suspended and Nicholas’ home was transferred back into her name. Johnson became his mother’s sole caregiver. 

In 2019, Bell fired back at Johnson in a lawsuit, accusing him of trying to evict him from the property through ‘aggressive and combative behavior,’ The Los Angeles Times reported. 

In August last year, Johnson accused Bell of elder abuse in a countersuit. 

In a statement, Johnson said he wants to use the lawsuit to ‘hold those responsible to account, ensure his mother’s financial stability, health and comfort, recover what has been stolen from her, and ensure a safe, secure, and enjoyable future in the coming years.’

Bell, who moved into a guest house on Nichols’ property in 2012, is accused of ‘taking advantage of a highly-respected woman when when she was vulnerable.’ In 2020, he was accused of continuing to live in the home under a fraudulent lease, although it is not clear if he still lives on the property.

Johnson’s lawyers have also accused Bell of manipulating the actress’s personal life through lies, fabricating documents, and by establishing legal entities that her he controlled.   

Meanwhile, Nichols’ longtime friend, producer Fawcette, has argued in court filings that neither Johnson or Bell were making the actress a priority. 

‘Her son was absent from her life for six years,’ Fawcette told The Hill. ‘He missed Nichelle’s birthdays, Mother’s Days, Thanksgivings and Christmases. It was heart breaking to watch.’

During the same interview, Fawcette blasted Nichols’ former manager.

‘Gil was the gatekeeper, fiercely controlling Nichelle’s financial affairs and her person,’ she said. ‘He allegedly used her money to upgrade the home he lived in on Nichelle’s property, and bought new cars while Nichelle’s house sat in decay.

‘He even contemplated marrying Nichelle, so that her son would be denied his inheritance.’

Nichols' son Kyle Johnson argued that her health made her a prime target for exploitation by former manager Gilbert Bell (pictured), who spent about a decade living in the guest house of her home in Woodland Hills, California

Further complicating the case is her friend Angelique Fawcette (pictured), who has also sought to become Nichols' conservator after arguing that the actress deserves to live out her final days in her own home

Nichols’ son Kyle Johnson argued that her health made her a prime target for exploitation by former manager Gilbert Bell, who spent about a decade living in the guest house of her home in Woodland Hills, California. Further complicating the case is her friend Angelique Fawcett, who has also sought to become Nichols’ conservator after arguing that the actress deserves to live out her final days in her own home

Nichols bought her home in Woodland Hills, California in 1983 for $1100,000

Nichols bought her home in Woodland Hills, California in 1983 for $1100,000

Nichols entered showbusiness at age 16 and sang with legendary Duke Ellington before later switching to acting. She became one of the nation’s first black women to star in a primetime show after being cast in 1966 as Nyota Uhura on Star Trek.

Her break-the-mold tendencies expanded beyond the screen and into space science. She volunteered with NASA from 1977 to 2015 to promote diversity in the recruiting of women and minority astronauts. The initiative led to the recruitment of Dr. Sally Ride, the nation’s first women astronaut.

As an actress, Nichols played a key role in inspiring black children to enter showbusiness, and reportedly earned the praise of Martin Luther King Jr. Following her 70-episode run with the Star Trek series, she continued to star in box office sequels and lesser-known films.

Nichols’ contribution to the film industry earned her a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1992. She also received a life career award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films in 2016, becoming the first woman to be bestowed with the honor.

As an actress, Nichols played a key role in inspiring black children to enter showbusiness, and reportedly earned the praise of Martin Luther King Jr. Following her 70-episode run with the Star Trek series, she continued to star in box office sequels and lesser-known films

As an actress, Nichols played a key role in inspiring black children to enter showbusiness, and reportedly earned the praise of Martin Luther King Jr. Following her 70-episode run with the Star Trek series, she continued to star in box office sequels and lesser-known films

The role of conservators became a trending topic earlier this year when pop star Britney Spears demanded to be released from a conservatorship controlled by her father, Jamie Spears, since 2009. 

She said the appointment had wreaked havoc on her life, preventing her from marrying her long-time boyfriend and conceiving a child.

The ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ singer scored a major victory last week when her dad announced he would step down from the role.    



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