Women have been breaking records and pushing boundaries right from the beginning of time but there are a few who go above and beyond for their craft. Nollywood is filled with different amazing talents but today we will be looking at two Nollywood female icons who keep breaking barriers in the Nigerian movie industry; Omotola Jalade Ekeinde and Genevieve Nnaji.
Genevieve Nnaji started her acting career as a child actress in the then-popular television soap opera “Ripples” at the age of 8. She was also featured in several commercials, some of which include Pronto beverage and Omo detergent. In 1998, at the age of 19, she made her debut in the growing Nigerian film industry with the movie “Most Wanted.” As an upcoming actress, trying to create a niche for herself, she went through various minor roles seeking that opportunity for a breakthrough.
Her name became a household name and her image the desire of every young girl. In 2002, she starred in the movie Sharon Stone (2002), and her fame shot beyond the shores of Nigeria to the rest of Africa and several European countries. One can say that through the buzz, Genevieve reinvented the Nigerian Film Industry, introducing Nollywood to the rest of the world.
Genevieve appeals just as warmly to Kenyans, Liberians, South Africans, and Ghanaians, who avidly watch Nigerian home videos at home and abroad. Genevieve has led the market into new territories today.
Genevieve Nnaji was already a staple of Nollywood as one of the first modern acts to break fresh ground in the West. She appeared on Larry King Live and The Oprah Winfrey Show in the 2000s and her legacy was sealed as a legend and a role model worth emulating.
With acting credits to films that made Nollywood what it is right now to feats that were the first of its kind scoring the first ever brand ambassador deal by a Nollywood actor. Little did we realize that she was only getting started. In 2018, her directorial debut, Lionheart was acquired by movie streaming service, Netflix and became the first Nigerian movie to achieve that feat which was bought for a whooping billion naira.
She has been featured on Oprah, Essence, Elle and CNN. She scored the very first Nollywood endorsement deal and is represented by the agency that represents Hollywood stars like Kevin Hart, Angelina Jolie, and Johnny Depp.
Genevieve has worked with the best when it comes to films and deals.The likes of LUX, MUD cosmetics, Amstel Malta, Cintrion Energy Drinks, Polo- a fashion brand, Range Rover cars and Etisalat.
Her latest big screen feature, ‘Farming’ has her starring alongside international stars that includes Damson Idris, Kate Beckinsale, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Her life personifies the saying “All things are possible if you only believe.” These words describe her: determined, focused, humble, and creative. The best years of her career are still ahead.
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde
Over the years, Omotola has been a pioneer in the Nollywood film industry, successfully becoming the most watched actress in Africa. Since her Nollywood debut in 1995, she has appeared in an astounding 300 films, selling millions of video copies. After receiving numerous high-profile awards, launching a music career, and amassing an enviable fan base, the press has revered the Screen Nation ‘Best Actress’ as Africa’s biggest star. Today, she is not only noted for her incomparable showbiz accomplishments, but is also applauded for her remarkable humanitarian efforts. Over the years, Omotola has been a pioneer in the Nollywood film industry, successfully becoming the most watched actress in Africa.
As of the leading African actresses in Nigeria, Omotola Jalade has gone on to do great things, she was the first African celebrity to receive over 1 million likes on her Facebook page. In 2013, she was honoured in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world alongside Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and Kate Middleton. In the same year, the actress made a cameo appearance in the first season of “Hit The Floor,” a VH1 drama series. She played Akon’s date in just one scene in the fifth episode which was titled “Keep Away.”
Her activism and philanthropy continues with Save The Children UK, Enough is Enough, and Amnesty International; working for causes like the Maternal Mortality struggle in Sierra-Leone and the Own Up, Pay Up and Clean Up campaign for Niger Delta. She remained a UN ambassador for the WFP (World Food Programme) since 2005.
During the early 2010s, Omotola starred in several high-grossing films, which saw record-breaking success. The first being “Ije,” (2010) becoming the highest grossing film ever in the African cinemas. This was followed by “Last Flight To Abuja,” earning Omotola another box office record for becoming the highest grossing film in opening week. These accomplishments earned Omotola a new nickname, Cinema Box Office Queen.
In 2011, Omotola was invited to attend the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, CA in recognition of her work with Amnesty International and her song “Barren Land,” which was featured in a public service announcement, addressing the Shell Oil spill in the Niger Delta.
2012 marked another career high for Omotola. On October 27, she was awarded The Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts BEFFTA Icon Award, an exclusive honorary award for her outstanding contributions to the global film industry. Omotola acknowledged the recognition as an extremely special moment for her, stating, “this is the best award I have received on a global level.”
In 2018, she was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science popularly known as the Oscars. her recent win was the introduction of TEFFEST – The Entertainment Fair Festival.
Africa’s first entertainment business festival of its kind berths. The Entertainment Fair and Festival is the industry’s most important event of the year. The annual festival envisioned to merge possibilities in the business of entertainment and opportunities with the showcase of the very best of African Entertainment and innovation to the World and present current world-class innovations around entertainment to and in Africa.
Both actresses are obviously doing so well in taking the Nigerian movie industry to the next level and there’s a tendency to guage who deserves more bragging rights. However, between these remarkable Nollywood contemporaries developing an industry and bringing meaningful change to anything is a collaborative effort and we are sure they recognize that. So kudos to these two, they are definitely flying the Nollywood flag and taking the industry accross borders. That’s progress we should all applaud regardless of the weight of the strides each individual is taking per time.