They have become so big that producers now treat them like proverbial golden eggs. Photo: Various
Just like their names, their faces speak for them. They are actors who have managed to not only build names for themselves but also carve niches for themselves as some of the biggest brands. They have become so big that producers now treat them like proverbial golden eggs. They hardly make screen appearances except in the most expensive, big-budget projects and when they do, there is a huge buzz around it.
In no particular order, here are some of the most bankable actors in Nigeria.
Many will never forget her role in the self-produced 2008 movie, ‘Jenifa’ which saw her status grow remarkably in the industry and catapulting her into the ranks of A-list actresses. Born Akindele Olufunke Ayotunde, but better known as Funke Akindele, she’s one of the most recognisable actresses in Nigeria. The University of Lagos (UNILAG) law-graduate and Glo ambassador ranks as one of the most prolific artiste-cum-producers in Nollywood. She has produced (and featured) in movies like Jenifa, Omo Ghetto and OJO Ketala. Funke is the only Yoruba actress who has won an AMAA award for Best Actress.
Okechukwu Ukeje, known as OC Ukeje is a Nigerian actor, model and musician. He came into prominence after winning the Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO) reality show in 2008. He has been a part of several stage and movie productions including Two Brides and a Baby, Hoodrush, Alan Poza, Confusion Na Wa and Half of a Yellow Sun. He’s a winner of several awards including Africa Movie Academy Awards, Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, Nollywood Movies Awards, Best of Nollywood Awards, Nigeria Entertainment Awards and Golden Icons Academy Movie Awards. O.C was recently unveiled as a Glo ambassador.
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde
Talented, charming and graceful are perhaps the words that best describe Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, popularly known as ‘Omo Sexy’. The Lagos-born star who hails from Ondo State made her debut in Nollywood in 1995. Since then, she has acted in about 200 movies and has endeared herself to producers and marketers. Her star power has seen her snag numerous endorsement deals and even a listing by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, along with the likes of Michelle Obama, Beyonce and Kate Middleton.
Ali Nuhu is a household name, especially in the Northern part of the country. The good looking Nuhu made his debut in Kannywood – the Hausa home movie industry and an integral part of Nollywood – in the early 90s. He has diversified into music and film making. He has also landed endorsement deals for several corporate organisations. He has so far featured in more than 50 movies, cutting across Nollywood and Kannywood. Nuhu was the winner of the MTN Kannywood Best Actor Award in 2013, for his role in MatanGida, a Hausa production.
Genevieve Nnaji has expanded her relevance from acting to modelling, music and entrepreneurship. Unlike most of her colleagues, she started off very early with her first role coming when she was only 8 years old. At the age of 19, her role in the movie Most Wantedcatapulted her to fame. She is an ambassador to several notable brands including Lux and most recently, telecommunications giant, Etisalat.
Kunle Afolayan is of Yoruba descent but his fame transcends across the African continent. He is also the son of the late famous theatre practitioner, Ade Love. He majored in Economics and started out working in a bank while doing some casual acting, before deciding to move into full-time filmmaking by proceeding on a course at the New York Film Academy. Since he made a grand entrance in 2005, he has been active in the Nigerian film industry. He has made several successful movies including: The Figurine: Araromire which was in Yoruba and English and Phone Swap which featured Wale Ojo, Joke Silva, Nse Ikpe Etim and the legendary Chika Okpala. The Figurine won five major awards at the African Film Academy and experienced tremendous success in the Nigerian movie theatres. His last movie, October 1 has also won him several awards. He is regarded as one of the best filmmakers in Nigeria and is currently working on his latest project,The CEO which stars Jimmy Jean-Louise, Angelique Kidjo and many others.
Mercy Johnson Okojie
Popular screen goddess Mercy Johnson Okojie is acclaimed to be one of the most expensive actresses and the reason for this is not far fetched. Mercy has remained consistent with her acting, which many describe as outstanding and believable. The widely admired mother of two who is currently pregnant with her third child is noted for her versatility and ability to fit into and execute different roles, ranging from a high class lady, to a house maid and other memorable roles. Mercy Johnson is simply one of the best things to have happened to the Nigerian movie industry and over the years, she has garnered a countrywide followership.
Nkem Owoh who is popularly known as Osuofia is one of the industry’s most reliable comedians and actors. In 2008, he won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Owoh’s acting career began during his days as a student of Engineering at the University of Ilorin, when he featured in various television and film productions. He became widely known as Osuofia when he starred in a Nollywood movie titled Osuofia in London which is one of the most successful movies to have been produced in Nollywood.. The versatile and untiring screen icon is also known for ‘I Go Chop your Dollar’, a song about advance fee fraud popularly referred to as ‘419′. The song was used in the film ‘The Master’, in which Owoh plays a fraudster. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) later banned the song from further circulation which ironically made the song even more popular.
Ageless beauty, Kate Henshaw began her foray into Nollywood in 1993 with the hit movie, ‘When the Sun Sets’ and has ever since proven her mettle as a screen diva, most noted for the professionalism she brings to fore on set and of course, her delivery which has helped her gather fans, endorsements and several awards. She won the Africa Movie Academy Award in 2009, for the Best Actress in a Leading Role in the movie, ‘Stronger than Pain‘. The ebony actress is the ambassador of Onga seasoning, a judge on Nigeria’s Got Talent and the face of Blessing Perfumes. She is also an ambassador of Samsung mobile alongside music star and label owner, Banky W.
Ini Edo is one of the highest paid stars in Nollywood. The Glo ambassador got into acting in 2000 and has since then featured in over 100 movies including Thick Madam and Desperate Housegirls.The Akwa-Ibom State-born movie star is a screen delight whose acting career began at a tender age, in church and at school.
Patience Ozokwor is one of Nollywood’s most celebrated artistes. Popularly known as Mama G, she is without a doubt, one of the most sought after actresses in the industry. She has perfected the art of playing the role of a villain especially the wicked mother-in-law, so much so that many people (wrongly) assume that that the characterisation mirrors her real life persona. The movie star, who is from Enugu State, is also a singer, brand ambassador and businesswoman with investments in real estate.
Odunlade Adekola is an actor and movie producer who is adored by lovers of Yoruba movies in Nigeria and beyond, His acting and delivery have endeared him to many and has made his brand cut across different sub-genres. In an industry riddled with controversy, Odunlade has managed to stay out of controversy, maintaining a high level of discipline. He lives in Abeokuta and is married to his wife Ruth with whom he has 3 children. His talents have yielded several benefits for him including an endorsement deal with Glo.
John Okafor (often called ‘Mr. Ibu’, after his most popular role) is a talented actor and comedian. Okafor is considered to be one of Nigeria’s most gifted comic characters. His humorous acting is often characterised by comic silliness, slapstick humour and a sharp disconnect from reality. He came into limelight with the movie Agony, in which veteran actor, Pete Edochie co-starred in 1997 and has since featured in several blockbuster movies.
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