Growing up with the advantage of the TV screen was also an opportunity to be thrilled by the creativity displayed by the movie industry, especially Nollywood. It became so popular that some Millennials contemplated (and many still do) studying Theatre and Films Studies at the University, so they could appear on TV screens and carve a niche in the show-business. Several actors and actresses were seen as role models, even children took to acting in the ‘Church Children ministry’ as a result of these influences. Prominent in this list of premier Nollywood actors were outstanding men and women who made their mark in the Movie industry. To mark this year’s International Women’s Day celebrated every March 8, below are few of these actresses who set the pace in the industry with careers spanning decades:
As she was popularly called, Elizabeth Benson is a famous Nollywood actress who began acting at age 5 and became popular for her role in the TV soap opera, Fortunes in 1993 which Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) aired for 2 years. With an early entry into the industry, one of the first ladies of Nollywood quit acting in 1996 just when her rating as a leading actress was in the rise.
She had a comeback in 2015 after having been deeply involved Christian evangelistic work as an Evangelist with her husband, Bishop Great Emeya (who she married in 2009 after the death of her first husband, Samuel Gabriel Etim) in Delta State, where they live. The Efik-born veteran actress was born in 1966 and has featured in over 30 movies. Some of which includes: Diamond Ring 1 and 2 (1998), Dry (2014), Dearest Mummy (2015), Hilarious Hilary (2015), Lizard Life (2017).
The beauty queen, featuring alongside Liz Benson had her acting break in the soap opera, Fortune in 1993 and this role earned her several important Nollywood movies roles. In 2000, among several awards she received for her performances, she received the “Best Actress in Nigeria” by Afro Hollywood London award. She starred in several movies, produced several television shows and films, in the 1990s and 2000s with a wide audience beyond Nigeria. This earned her a top Nollywood actress position and one of the highest paid in Nollywood.
Some of the movies she featured in includes: Most Wanted, Highway to the Grave (1997), Suicide Mission (1998), The President’s Daughter (2000), Vuga (2000), Slave Warrior: The Beginning (video) (2007).
She had previously emerged the Miss Campus of the University of Lagos in 1988 and later became a supermodel when she contested for the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) the same year and she places second for the Miss Intercontinental Pageant 1989. However, she became titleholder the following year when winner Bianca Onoh resigned. In 1990, Askia-Williams represented Nigeria at Miss Charm International held in Leningrad, Russia, and came second. She also made history by becoming the first Nigerian at Miss International in Japan, where she made an impact with the most outstanding traditional costume.
Fortunately, she survived the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York where she had relocated with her family to pursue a career in Nursing and stimulate collaboration between nurses in Nigeria and the diaspora through her Campaign for Excellence in Nursing in Nigeria. She also hosted her fashion show in 2006. In 2007, at the Celebrating African Motherhood Organization (CAM) gala event which honored African Women in the Arts, alongside Angelique Kidjo from Benin and others, Actress Regina Askia born in 1967 was awarded too.
The heartthrob of the veteran actor, Olu Jacob, for over three decades, was born 29 September, 1961 and graduated from the University of Lagos and Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She was adopted became the daughter of the late Chief E.A Silva, a reputable lawyer, the then Babajiro of Lagos and his wife late Dr Abimbola Silva.
Aunty Joke, as some call the popular veteran actress began her acting career in the 1990s starring in the British-Canadian film, The Secret Laughter of Women in 1998. She has featured in films and TV series in English and Yoruba with Mind Bending (1990), Owulorojo (1993), Violated (1995) as her earliest. Other movies includes: Keeping Faith (2002), The Kingmaker (co-produced and starred with Olu Jacob), A Husband’s Wife (2003), Shylock (2004), The Past Came Calling (2004). In 2006, she also won the “Best Actress in a Leading Role” at the 2nd Africa Movie Academy Awards for her performance in Women’s Cot, and “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” at the 4th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2008 for her performance as a grandmother in White Waters. As a recent work, she starred in Chief Daddy (2018).
She has also garnered a lot of accolades for her works including: Member of the Order of the Niger (September 29, 2014), Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes in recognition of her anti-human trafficking campaign, “I am Priceless” (October 2012), Brand Ambassador to AIICO Pensions Managers Ltd (APML, in September 2016).
The mother of 2 boys is also a philanthropist and the co-founder (alongside her business partner, Olu Jacob) of Lufodor Group (an academy and film production and distribution asset unit) where she is also the Director of Studies, and she is the pioneering Manager of Malete Film Village (and associate of Kwara State University).
The actress from Imo state was born on July 12, 1975 and has starred in tens of Nollywood productions since she began her acting career. She starred in her first movie, A Time to Kill in 1998 she starred in her first movie. Other movies she starred in includes: ’76, Suru L’ere (2016), White Waters (2008), Girls Cot (2006), Last Wedding (2004).
She won the City People Awards in 2004 as the Most Outstanding Actress and nominated and won multiple awards one too many list here, from Best Actress, Best Actress In a Leading Role (Africa Movie Academy Awards, 2012), Best Actress – Drama/TV Series (Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, 2017).
The Director, co-writer and star actress of the Nigerian drama film, Lionheart (2018) began her acting career at age 8 when she featured in the TV soap opera, Ripple. By 19 in 1998, starred in the popular movie, Most Wanted, but she explained her big break came with Ijele and Last Party. Born in 1979 with an active career spanning over two decades, Genevieve is a lady that has made tremendous contribution to the growth of the movie industry.
As of 2009 Nnaji was one of the best paid actresses in Nollywood. Due to her contributions to the Nigeria movie industry, she became the first actress to be awarded Best Actress at the 2001 City People’s Awards, the award ceremony that previously had only recognized politicians and business conglomerates. She was also the first actress to be awarded as Best Actress by the Censors Board of Nigeria in 2003. In 2009, she was referred to as the Julia Roberts of Africa by Oprah Winfrey, the same year starring in the movie Ije: The Journey alongside another veteran actress, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde.
In 2015, Nnaji produced her first movie, Road to Yesterday, which won Best Movie Overall-West Africa at the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA), and Lionheart (streaming on Netflix) is her directorial debut.
The Nollywood superstar actress , born February 7, 1978, began her acting career at age 17 with her debut movie as Venom of Justice (1995). She is credited to have appeared in an astounding 300 films, selling millions of video copies. Her big break came in her role in the 1995 film, Mortal Inheritance. Her performance in the movie earned the actress several awards, including, Best Actress in an English Speaking Movie and Best Actress overall at the 1996/97 Thema Awards, while the film itself is still revered. Of the many awards and recognition she recieved, in 2013, Omotola was named one of the most influential people in the world by TIME magazine for their annual TIME 100 list. She appeared in the icons category.
She starred in the movie Blood Sisters (with Genevieve Nnaji, 2003); some other include: Die Another Day (2004), Games Women Play (2005), A Private Storm (2010), Last Flight to Abuja (1012), Amina (2012), Hit The Floor (2013), The Tribunal (2017).
In addition, the actress launched entered the music industry with the release of her debut album titled GBA. In 2012, she launched her own reality show, Omotola: The Real Me, on Africa Magic Entertainment, a M-Net subsidiary broadcast on DStv. This made Omotola the first Nigerian celebrity to star in her own reality show. She is also an active human right campaigner and philanthropist.
“Mama G” as she is popularly called was born in 1958 and educated at the Institute of Management Technology, Enugu where she studied Fine and Applied Arts. She began her acting career in with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) soap opera, Someone Cares and in 1999, her role in the very successful movie, Authority was the big break she needed into the industry.
She married at age 19 and is the mother of 3 biological and 5 adopted children has played the role of a mother to multiple popular Nollywood actors including Kanayo O. Kanayo. She won the Best Supporting Actress award at the 10th Africa Movie Academy Awards. She was also among the 100 Nigerians honoured by the government to celebrate the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates in 2014.
Reliving my childhoods, i can not forget the hilarious role of “Peace” in the in sitcom, Fuji House of Commotion (created by Amaka Igwe). Her character was the third wife of Chief Fuji, often shown as his favorite. Ngozi Nwosu was also my favorite too. Born in 1963, she began her acting career while attending acting classes in school, most of which were done in Yoruba. She played “Madam V boot” in the television series, Ripples. Also, she starred in the popular movie Living in Bondage, and was the producer of Evil Passion, Stainless and the radio show, Onga.
Though her health failed in 2012 but she has soon recovered after treatments in the UK and in 2018, she featured in Nigeria’s first feature animated film, Sade.
The actress born in April 24, 1978 started her career as a singer in Lagos where she used to work as a studio session singer at the famous Klink Studios owned by filmmaker Kingsley Ogoro. Eventually doing jingles on radio and TV in Nigeria at that time. In 1992, se made her first appearance in the Nigerian film, Abused. But her break was in her second movie Breaking Point produced by Emem Isong and directed by Francis Agu where she shot into superstardom across Nigeria. She has gone on to star in over 300 movies.
Some of these movies include: Emotional Pain, Dangerous Desire (2003), Queen 1 and 2 (2004), Missing Angel 1,2&3, (2004), The Seed 1&2 (2005), Yankee Girls (1and 2, 2008), Affairs of the Heart (2016).
She was nominated and won some awards too. For Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009. She won the Award for Best Actress at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards in 2007. In 2012, she won the award for Best Actress for the movie Two Brides and a Baby at the Golden Icons Academy Awards in Houston, Texas.
Stephanie Okereke Linus
She made her debut into Nollywood in her teen, at age 15 featuring in two movies Nollywood movies, Compromise 2 and Waterloo (1997). And she has starred in over 90 Nollywood movies. Of this includes some like Pretender, Blind Justice (2002), Aristos,
Emotional Crack (2003), Critical Decision (2004), Virgins Night Out (2004), Dry (2014), Make Me Fabulous (2015), Boonville Redemption (2015) and so forth.
As a result of her work, she has been the recipient of so many awards form the AMVCA best movie category to the REEL Awards, Afro Dublin Awards, Film Makers of Nigeria Awards and much more.
There is a plethora of women that have significantly impacted the movie industry in Nigeria, Nollywood and through their works they have altered for good, forever, the perception and reception of Nigeria to the world. They deserve to be recognized, celebrated and their contributions extolled.
Featured image source: Pulse.ng