Los Angeles Comic Con 2021: Nichelle Nichols

Los Angeles Comic Con 2021

Los Angeles Comic Con 2021: Setting Up At The Los Angeles Convention Center

Los Angeles Comic Con 2021 occurred December 3 through December 5 this year. I had the pleasure of helping a friend who helped with the convention. Unfortunately, since I spent most of my time behind the scenes, I did miss most of the convention. However, I did see some amazing and wonderful sights that I would love to share. 

At its heart, Comic Cons are gatherings of fans appreciating comics, gaming, movies, television, and pop culture. They set the tone for the event. Los Angeles Comic-Con 2021 had the most dedicated fans I have seen at a con in a while. Everyone in attendance was absolutely amazing. People came from all over the world to attend. This extremely large con had a true feeling of community. A community worth celebrating. The venue, Los Angeles Convention Center, was massive. It was like walking around the city from Logan’s Run. The convention made excellent use of the space. The main hall housed artist alley, creators’ corner, and vendors. There were photo op rooms, meet n’greet opportunities, autograph signing rooms, a theater, and multiple stages. Rooms 501-518, where I spent almost all my time housed Atomic HQ, Star Trek-themed rooms, and NASA panels. 

My friend arrived several hours before the event started to set up. It was fascinating to see the work spent setting up the rooms. Seeing the signs already set up made me feel giddy. Hundreds of fans would crowd these empty hallways and rooms in a few hours. During this time, I met some great people working hard to set up Nichelle Nichols‘s final convention appearance. They were scrambling to make sure last-minute details were perfect. During this time, I met the energetic Sky Conway, the CEO of Atomic Studios. He asked me if I would like to help with some of the events that Atomic Studios had planned for Nichelle’s final convention. Naturally, I was eager to assist in any way I could. 

The Legendary Nichelle Nichols

I had the opportunity to assist with a VIP photo op and autograph signing held at the Hotel Indigo. VIPs had purchased packages as early as last year that came with different gifts. Guests were also given a glass of champagne to toast Nichelle Nichols. Before Nichelle arrived, Sky Conway told the guests personal stories from Nichelle’s life, many from her autobiography Beyond Uhura. Conway is a gifted speaker; when he spoke, he made each guest feel like the only person in the room. However, Conway gently reminded the guests that although Nichelle still loves her fans, she does not remember any previous conventions or fan encounters due to her health. Nichelle was diagnosed with dementia in 2018 and suffered a minor stroke in 2015. 

When Nichelle arrived with her family and friends, including her son Kyle Johnson and sister Marian Michaels, the guests applauded her. Nichelle looked absolutely radiant in a black sequined top paired with an open red sequined cardigan and black dress pants. Her face was framed by silvery chandelier drop-style earrings. Her glowing face lit up the room. She has the same poise and elegance that she has had since she was a singer with Duke Ellington‘s orchestra. One guest, whose son had purchased a ticket for her 60th birthday, gave an emotional and heartfelt speech. The guest spoke of how Nichelle opened the door for all women of color to achieve anything and praised her for all her accomplishments in the entertainment industry. Everyone in the room clapped. The guest perfectly stated how we all feel for Nichelle Nichols. It was an honor to assist with the guests taking pictures and obtaining autographs. 

Nichelle greeted every guest with her lustrous smile. Her fans had brought an array of personal objects ranging from pictures from previous cons, Ebony magazine from January 1967 featuring Nichols on the cover, her 1967 album Down to Earth, action figures, Beyond Uhura, and one fan painted a portrait of Nichols. Every item handed to Nichelle brought a smile to her face. When she signed her name, she told each fan the item was a gift from her. Then, Nichelle spoke a few quiet words to each fan before signing the next item. 

Los Angeles Comic Con 2021: Walking The Main Hall

After the event, I was able to walk back to the Los Angeles Convention Center and walk around the Main Hall. There was an impressive number of cosplayers which is my favorite part of any con. It is always remarkable seeing people who worked hard to achieve a look pulling it off. There were also many vehicle props displayed. Many vehicle replicas from KITT to Ecto-1 to Lightning McQueen were there for photo ops. Although The Doctor was not there to offer rides across time and space, a TARDIS replica was also on the floor. Legendary artists, such as Frank Miller, attended the convention. I met one couple who were beaming because they got to get Frank Miller’s autograph. Many functional robots were walking up and down the aisles. The Main Hall was probably bigger than some cons I attended previously. Three days could easily have been spent exploring without attending photo ops or signings. The celebrities who attended were also noteworthy. The biggest and best names, such as John Leguizamo and Benedict Wong, were greeting fans. 

On Saturday, Sky Conway asked me to assist in the Atomic Studios merchandise room. I got to set the room up with Thomas J. Moore, who worked on Renegades (2015; Atomic Studios) and helped with previous events such as Hollywood Expo. During my time in the room, I got to talk to a NASA employee who told me about Nichelle Nichols’s work with them to assist with recruitment. Helping in the merch room, I spoke to guests about the short film Renegades: Ominara, which would be premiering that evening. Ominara is Atomic Studio’s latest venture into the Renegades universe. The short film is also Nichelle Nichols’ last film appearance. It was a lot of fun to help out behind the scenes and see how comic cons are run to ensure fans have an unforgettable experience. No detail is overlooked, no matter how small. Although, at times, the day seemed as surreal as Alan Tyduk‘s Con Man, there actually is a great deal of order in the chaos. At the end of the day, the organizers hope the fans have had a terrific experience. 

Renegades: Ominara

At the premiere of Renegades: Ominara, I got to see the main cast get pictures in front of a background designed and printed by Moore. Loren Lott looked stunning in a purple dress as she chatted with fans before the screening. The film itself is a tribute to Star Trek and the sci-fi genre. But, as writer Frank Zanca pointed out, it is not a fan film. Instead, it is a crowd-funded movie with elements of different sci-fi shows and movies. The film stars the talented Loren Lott, Chalet Lizzette Brannen, Jackie R. Jacobson, Robert Miano, and Johnny Jay Lee. The movie features Christopher Allen and Bill Victor Arucan. 

Nichelle Nichols stars as the titular Ominara in the opening minutes. Although brief, her role is unforgettable. The film was written by Frank Zanca and directed by Tim Russ of Star Trek Voyager fame. Chalette Lizzette Brannen got to wear the same earpiece that Nichelle Nichols wore as communications officer Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, which is an easy-to-miss Easter egg. The movie ends on a cliffhanger, and I cannot wait to see the next episode. After the screening, there was an after-party where actor Gary Graham‘s band The Sons of Kirk rocked. Nichelle Nichols briefly danced with family and a person in a Salt Monster costume. The crowd cheered to see Nichols enjoying herself. It made me think about how she danced in Carmen Jones and Porgie and Bess early in her career. Nichols had a smile on her face while enjoying the music and her time on the dance floor. 

I had to leave the after-party early because I had to fly out early Sunday morning. Therefore, I did not get to attend the awards ceremony for Nichelle on Sunday. However, Thomas J. Moore shared pictures of Dr. Mae Jamison speaking about Nichelle on Sunday afternoon. Moore stated the event was very emotional and touching. 

Los Angeles Comic Con 2021: COVID-19 Compliant

The convention was one of the best I have been to. Despite the genuine threat of COVID, everyone brought positive energy. The convention staff worked hard to check vaccination cards and offer rapid tests. Masks are required inside all public buildings in Los Angeles, and fans and celebrities worked hard to comply. 

Final Thoughts

Besides being close to Nichelle Nichols, the other two encounters I had were the opportunities to say hello to the beautiful and talented BarBara Luna and the chance to fist bump Dr. Mae Jamison. 

The biggest takeaway was that Nichelle Nichols is a truly loved person. From her singing career to her stage performances, to her work on Star Trek, to her work with NASA, she has touched an enormous amount of people in a personal way. During fan events where she showed appreciation for pictures fans had of her from previous encounters, those fans had copies of the pictures made to gift to her. You could see how much she enjoyed being around her fans because her eyes lit up in every photo. This was Nichelle Nichols’s last Comic-Con. She is retiring from public events. So, it was a perfect last convention. Nichelle’s achievements were honored. We will never forget the memories made this past weekend. Thank you, Nichelle, for all you have done for us. The one thing that was impressed upon me is that Nichelle Nichols has touched generations of people worldwide. I spoke to fans from Germany, the UK, New York, and all points in between. I met fans of my parent’s generation, my age, and fans who are young enough to be my children. This was a celebration of the life and accomplishments of a beautiful person that was happening adjacent to a comic con in the heart of a bustling city. The experience was like no other comic con I have been to. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event. 

One brief personal note, I had to leave my very young daughter at home. I had never left her for long, and she missed me tremendously. She asked me to take Chase from Paw Patrol with me to keep me company, and in turn, I took pictures with her toy because she could not be there. Therefore, that is the reason for so many photos with the Chase toy. 

-Alana Rodriguez 

Special thanks to Sky Conway, Linda, Thomas J. Moore, and Lily 


About the author

Alana Rodriguez

Having lived in five different states, Alana Rodriguez has had the opportunity to have a very fun life. She grew up watching Doctor Who, Star Trek, Shirley Temple movies, Batman, and Twilight Zone which created a life long love of old Hollywood and all things geeky. She is a bibliophile who prefers the company of books to most people. When not reading, she can be found writing. She hopes to have her first book published.
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