The Actress Who Loved Star Trek Making Her Bald

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

star trek

She’s not exactly a household name among fans, but Persis Khambatta will forever have a place in Star Trek history for playing the Deltan navigator Ilia in The Motion Picture. Arguably, the most striking thing about her appearance in that film is that she is completely bald, and most fans assumed that this former Miss India hated shaving all her luxurious locks. However, she revealed to Playboy that she actually loved having a bald head, both because she could creatively decorate it and because she loved trolling people by wearing a scarf and taking it off in public places.

Ilia The Deltan

scarlett johansson

To fully appreciate this tale of Persis Khambatta’s time on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, you need to know a bit more about her character. Ilia was a Deltan, a race of aliens who are identical to humans except for their bald heads.

One fun fact is that these aliens were considered so sexy that they could dangerously distract others, which is why Ilia and other Deltans had to swear to an oath of celibacy before they could serve in Starfleet.

Too Beautiful For Sanity

persis khambatta Star Trek

The idea of aliens so attractive that it would drive futuristic humans into a frenzy sounds crazy, but Persis Khambatta was so naturally beautiful that she sold us on her gorgeous Star Trek character.

She was a model and actor with an extensive Bollywood history, and like her character’s oath of celibacy, her beauty was a matter of record. She became Miss India in 1965 while also winning another appropriate award at the same competition: Miss Photogenic.

Khambatta Liked Being Bald

In other words, Persis Khambatta was someone known for her immense beauty, so it was a bit shocking that Paramount wanted her to shave her head bald to bring her Star Trek: The Motion Picture character to life.

In an old interview, however, the actor revealed in an old interview that she liked the look, noting that “I can wear jewelry on my head, and sometimes I paint it with different designs.” 

She Liked Playing Jokes

persis khambatta Star Trek

She also enjoyed wearing a scarf to restaurants and other public places and making everyone gasp once she took it off. However, she was quick to clarify the reactions were “nice” and that rocking a bald head had given her “a lot of confidence.”

While we don’t doubt the sincerity of her words, the actor also had plenty of personal and professional motivation to play ball (or should that be “play bald?”) with Paramount.

She Passed Too Young

stephen collins star trek

Like many people, Persis Khambatta fell in love with Star Trek: The Original Series during its 70’s era reruns, and when she noticed how much Gene Roddenberry liked to cast “exotic-looking girls,” she asked her agent to try to get her a part on the show.

That was when she found out that it was no longer on the air, but she soon signed a 5-year contract to appear in the sequel series Star Trek: Phase II. Plans for that series eventually fell through, but her planned Ilia character was used to great effect in The Motion Picture

Sadly, Persis Khambatta died in 1998 at the tender age of 49 years old, but her memory lives forever thanks to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She was there from the very beginning of the first Trek renaissance, bringing the ideas of Gene Roddenberry to a new generation of fans.

Looking back, we have to agree that she looked great with a shaved head, and not even Patrick Stewart could dethrone her from her place as Trek’s boldest, baldest beauty.

Star Trek Newsletter

Subscribe For Bold

Star Trek News

Expect a confirmation email if you "Engage!"