The Nigerian movie industry known as Nollywood is a huge part of the Nigerian culture. Since its inception, the industry has been a medium to teach certain values that Nigerians – especially the older generation – hold in high regard such as honesty, humility, hard work, modesty, etc. while exposing the nation’s tradition and cultural practices to the world.
What’s more, it is a globally recognized entertainment hub that boasts a wealth of talents from its producers, directors to its actors, and actresses.
In this blog post, we will be placing the spotlight on ten of the best Nigerian actresses. Nollywood couldn’t have attained its current status without these women – they are versatile, dexterous, and might I add, stunning! Some are already global sensations, while others are up and coming and should be watched out for.
1. Patience Ozokwor
At the top of this list is one of Nollywood’s best, Patience Ozokwor, fondly called “Mama G”. “The wicked mother-in-law” is one of Patience’s most popular roles – a character she played in countless movies and one that most Nigerians recognize her for. However, she has proven to be an all-around actress with movies like Chief Daddy and The Wedding Party 2. Presently, Patience is one of the wealthiest female acts in Nigeria with several awards under her belt including the 10th Africa Movie Academy Awards, Lifetime Achievement Awards in Cinema, etc. This talented actress is also an entrepreneur, musician, and fashion design shop owner.
2. Sola Sobowale
There are only a handful of excellent and exceptional veteran Nigerian actresses, and Sola Sobowale, alias, Toyin Tomatoes, is undoubtedly one of them. Crime, love, passion, comedy – Sola never disappoints. Born on December 26, 1965, this experienced actress made her movie debut in 1992 in the Yoruba film titled Asewo To Re Mecca. Since then, she has starred in several Yoruba and English movies and TV shows including awards winning films like The Wedding Party and King of Boys, where Sola won the AMAA award for best actress. Apart from being one of the most influential Nigerian actresses, Sola is also a producer, director, and screenwriter.
3. Stephanie Okereke
This beautiful ex-model is an embodiment of talent. Stephanie directed, produced, starred in, and wrote the script for, Through the Glass, which won an African Movie Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. Since her first screen appearance in 1997, Stephanie has featured in over 300 movies, most of which are Nollywood blockbusters. In 2006, she won the Afro Hollywood Award for Best Actress and in subsequent years, she was nominated for many leading actress awards. The mother of one is also one of the highest-paid Nigerian actresses and a philanthropist.
4. Mercy Johnson
Mercy Johnson has been a screen favourite in Nigeria since she starred in the 2004 hit movie, The Maid. She has also warmed her way into the hearts of many Nollywood lovers with films like Dumebi the Dirty Girl, Mrs Trouble, In Love With a Fighter, and Obioma: The Hustler, where she was the lead actress. While Mercy presently keeps a low profile – rarely appearing in movies – she is still one of the greatest Nollywood female actors.
5. Omotola Jalade Ekeinde
“Omo sexy” as she is famously called, is another actress that has made her mark in the Nigerian movie scene. Omotola landed her first big role in the critically acclaimed 1995 movie, Mortal Inheritance, where she played a sickle-cell patient who fought for her life despite the odds of survival. Today, the hourglass-shaped actress boasts over 300 movie appearances. She is also the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and City People’s Movie Awards. Omotola is also recognized for her music career and heartwarming humanitarianism.
6. Rita Dominic
Rita Uchenna Dominic is an actress of royal descent who started performing as a child, appearing in school plays and children’s television shows. She made her movie debut in 1998 in the movie, A Time to Kill. So far, Rita has featured in over 100 Nollywood productions and won a couple of high-profile awards. She is also the producer of the award-winning romantic comedy, “The Meeting”. This dexterous actress is also recognized as a fashion icon as she never fails to dazzle onlookers at events with her gorgeous attires. In fact, over the years, she has received various awards for the best-dressed Nigerian female.
7. Genevieve Nnaji
If you’re an ardent Netflix user, you might have come across the comedy feature, Lion Heart. This movie is not only a Nigerian classic filled with many beautiful lessons but also represents the coming of age of Genevieve Nnaji, an actress that has decided to be deliberate about the direction of her career, choosing things that will go down in history – LionHeart is Netflix’s first original film from Nigeria. Besides starring in the movie, she also wrote, directed, and produced it. Needless to say, Genevieve has had an illustrious acting career with hundreds of movie appearances, notable awards, and a film production company.
8. Adesua Etomi-Wellington
Adesua Etomi is a new and impressive addition to the Nigerian movie space. After graduating with first-class honours in drama and performance from the University of Wolverhampton, Adesua moved back to Nigeria to become an actress and made her first debut in the 2014 musical romantic drama film, Knocking on Heaven’s Doors. Presently, she has received 5 reputable awards and numerous award nominations for her outstanding performances. Falling, Gidi Up, Brave, The Arbitration, and King of Boys are some of her best works. Lastly, she is also the wife of popular Nigerian R&B sensation, Bankole Wellington, also known as Banky W.
9. Ramaha Sadau
Ramaha Sadau is best known for her performances in Hausa – one of the three predominant Nigerian languages – movies. She made her first appearance in the 2013 movie, Gani ga Wane – loosely translated as Look at Me, Look at Another. Rahama also appears in English movies and TV shows and is popular for her role as Corper Yasmin in MTV’s show, Shuga. Best Actress at the City People Entertainment Awards in 2014 and 2015 and Best African Actress at the 19th African Film Awards in 2015 are some awards in her possession.
10. Jemimah Osunde
Jemimah Osunde was shot into the limelight after starring in Genevieve Nnaji’s Lion Heart in 2019, where she played the role of a dedicated secretary and has been on a roll ever since. Besides Genevieve, Jemimah has acted alongside popular movie acts like Kate Henshaw, Chioma Chukwuka, Linda Ejiofor, among others. She is also popular for her role as Leila in the acclaimed Nigerian television series, Shuga. In 2019, Jemimah was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 15th Africa Movie Academy Awards for her performance in The Delivery Boy. This fast-rising actress is also a model and TV host.
Clearly, Nigeria is home to some of the best female acts in Africa and arguably in the world. These protean actresses deliver roles thrown at them and brilliantly too. Nigerian actresses like Sola Sobowale, Patience Ozokwor, Genevieve Nnaji, Mercy Johnson, Rita Dominic, Omotola Jalade are pillars of Nollywood, and others like Adesua Etomi, Jemimah Osunde, and the likes are its future.
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I am a Nigerian-based writer, committed to telling the Nigerian story from a different point of view and letting the world see my country for all its great potentials.