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Top 20 Nigerian Celebrities And Their Grass To Grace Stories

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5 TIMAYA- I was Sexually Abused By The Lady Who Took Me In After My Landlord Ejected MeTimaya’s road to fame was turbulent and were actually captured in his two tracks- True Story and Plantain Seller.
He narrated his story in an interview:Let me start by telling you that I have stories to tell. Stories that you never knew about or heard. Stories that will shock every listening ears.

First, I lived with a woman older than me in Port-Harcourt before I became the Timaya that you know today. I’d been singing all these while but I hadn’t made the any hit. I was writing my songs and hustling between studios. The woman accommodated me after I was thrown out by my landlord. And all through my stay, she fed me.

Of course she handed me rules and regulations. I must be in the house by 7pm and she slept with me whenever she wanted, whether I liked it or not.

And the day I say I’m tired, she’d sanction and threaten me for daring to go do with some else. These are some of the challenges I faced that most people know nothing about.

6 GENEVIEVE NNAJI- I Was Offered A Supporting Role But It Was Like A Lead Role For Me.

She is like the queen of Nollywood. Famous TV talk show, Oprah referred to her as the Julia Roberts of Africa. Ms Nnaji came from a humble background too. She talked about her early beginning in an interview.

It started from her first audition- and first movie role-for Most Wanted, in 1998. Before this, her only acting experience was in popular soap opera Ripples, when she was eight years old.
“There were loads of people and I had never been to an audition,”she recalls with a smile. ” I had just finished secondary school and a fellow actor ( popularly called) Torino had seen me somewhere in Surulere and recognised me from age eight when I was in Ripples. So he invited me and I went there and there were lots of people and it was very intimidating.”As with any professional audition, there were many reasons for her to lose a bit of confidence. ” You will meet people with better skin,” she says, “(and) better hair than you, who come from more privileged backgrounds and seem to have all the advantages.”And she might be the reigning diva now but back then, she was awed to even be in the same building with the likes of Ayo Adesanya, Regina Askia and Ibinabo Fiberesima.”
In our minds we were waiting for the lead role,” she chuckles, ” but of course, the leads had all been cast so I was offered a supporting role but it was like a lead role for me because it was a big deal to walk alongside such divas like Regina Askia, Liz Benson, they were the people we looked up to then. And having to share the screen with them was huge.”

7 YUL EDOCHIE- I Squatted With My Senior Colleague, Nonso Diobi, Where I Slept On The Floor

Yul is the hottest and most sought after Nollywood actor at the moment. He’s doing very well for himself. Hear his grass to grace story:

Many people deviate from what they studied in school, but you didn’t. Did your dad being in the industry have any influence on your career?

Yes, he influenced me, but not that he helped me get there. I always say that he didn’t really do anything for me in the career. I got where I am today because God loves me and he gave me the talent to be there. It was just that I always saw him as that big figure and wanted to be like him or better. He is a role model to mein acting. I always wanted to be like him, but I started from the scratch just like everyone else in the industry. I started with auditions. I went through the lowest role in movie that people popularly called ‘Waka Pass’. I did minor roles, I did two scenes, three scenes and from there, I began to grow and learn how to do it. So it is not like I just woke up one day and he put me there without any work.

“Of course, it does. I am proud of myself and my achievements. Though I’m not a proud or arrogant person. I try as much as possible to be real. If I narrate my story to you, you won’t believe it. When I came to Lagos, I was squatting with my friend and senior colleague, Nonso Diobi. Then, I used to sleep on the floor, but today, we are neighbors at Crown Estate, Lekki . That’s the irony of life.

Then, he was living in one-room apartment, and I was sleeping in the parlor without minding the consequences. I didn’t mind because I know where I was going to. I wasn’t concerned about the money I was going to make from this business. I just wanted to show the world that I can act and today, I have achieved a few things for myself. That’s my story. I passed through this struggle not because of the name I have. I did it on my own, so, I’m happy with my achievement.

8 BANKY W- I Begged To Sell CDs In US Salons To Survive; Went To Church To Eat Free Food

Banky W is an R&B super star and producer today.
He narrated his humble beginning.
Indeed his tale solidifies his emphasis on little beginning because to achieve his dream of becoming a music superstar, Banky had to take up to three jobs while also in university!

He said:
“I worked in fast foods outlets, clothing stores and as a knife salesman, selling knives from door to door. That way, I gathered money to pay for studio recording time. I was recording with a close friend at that time.

“After making that music, we printed a thousand CDs though we didn’t have any fan. I had one battered car that broke down virtually everywhere, so, we would print black and white posters, stick them on the sides of the car, sell from the car’s trunk and drive to salons to do marketing. We would walk to the owners of the salons, greet politely, and ask them to let us entertain their customers. Sometimes, some would kick us out and sometimes some would say yes. If told yes, after singing for a minute or two, we would sell our CDs to the customers!

“A lot of people see you on stage and see the success but do not know what you had to go through! I never had one really big break; it was always two steps forward and a couple backwards. But I just decided that I was going to make music work for me. That was why I moved on to a new salon each time any salon rejected me! I just kept going because I believe failure is when you give up. Albert Einstein said he tried a hundred times to make the light bulb.

When he was asked what kept him going during the 99 times, he said:
‘I didn’t consider those 99 times asfailure; rather, I considered them 99 ways that it didn’t work!’ We went about selling CDs and, on the days we couldn’t sell much, we would sit down and be broke together. I remember my friend was a member of a church that usually served food after service. So, on the days we didn’t sell CDs and were too broke to buy food, we would attend service in that church so we could pack rice and store in the fridge.”

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9 DON JAZZY- Was Once A Security Guard MichaelCollins Ajereh born November 26, 1982, better known as Don Jazzy, is a Nigerian Multi award-winning record producer, singer-songwriter,mu­sician, former CEO of Nigerian record label Mo’ Hits Records founded in 2004 and current CEO of the Mavin Records label which he founded in May 2012, after his split up with childhood friend and Mo’Hits partner, D’banj.
Born in Umuahia in Abia state, his first signing was D’banj who was at that time also the Vice-President of the label and now President after split. Don Jazzy’s first full credit production work was in 2004 on Tongolo for Nigerian singer D’banj.
He went on to produce D’banj’s first studio album titled No Long Thing released in 2005. Michael Collins Ajereh was born in Umuahia and hail from Delta state.
His family moved to Ajegunle city in Lagos state where he was raised, and graduated from Federal Government College Lagos. Michael Had always had a flair for music singing and playing the drums from the age of four. He developed a passion for the bass guitar at the age of 12, he went on study Business Management at the Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma in Edo state. He moved to London in the United Kingdom in 2000 after his Uncle invited him to come play the drums for the neighborhood Church. Various odd jobs followed including working at McDonalds and as a security guard. Already imbued with an intimate knowledge of traditional and percussion instruments, Don Jazzy further built on his musical knowledge during his UK stint. Finding fellow kindred sprits in the likes of Solek, JJC, Kas, The 419 squad and D’Banj, the gang would spend unrelenting hours practicing, recording and performing different types of music. He has produced tracks for Dr SID, Wande Coal, D’Prince, Darey, Naeto C, Olakunle Excel et Zanga (O.A.U), Sauce Kid, Ikechukwu & Tiwa Savage.
He also collaborated with Jay-Z and Kanye West on the production of Lift Off, featuring Beyoncé on the album Watch The Throne, released on August 8, 2011. He recently was rated as the 36th. “Most powerful celebrity in Africa” according to Forbes.10 9ICE- I Used My Sister’s JAMB Fee To Record ‘Little Money’

For Alexandra Abolore Adigun, better known as 9ice, climbing to the top didn’t come very easy. He was admitted to study law at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, but dropped out of school to pursue a career in music, which eventually paid off for him.
The singer started attracting the curiosity of music faithfuls in Nigeria with his song; ‘Little Money’ around year 2005, but he said that the song was recorded around2000. Soon after, he stole the hearts of many music lovers with ‘Ganja’ and by then, he was seen as a good singer with prospects.
Even though his voice sounds like a cracked one, this did not stop him from becoming the darling of many music lovers. Later, 9ice became an A-list artiste with his ‘Gongo Aso’, which ruled the music scene in Africa.9ice was one of the musicians privileged to perform in London during the90th birthday celebration of the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela some years ago.

The Nigerian singer was reportedly paid heavily for his performance, where he played his ‘Gongo Aso’ hit tune to the delight of the audience.

Speaking sometime ago in a radio interview, the Ogbomosho, Oyo State-born singer disclosed that he once used the money meant to purchase a JAMB form for his sister, who happens to be the last child of the family, for his music career.

“I used the money given to me to purchase a JAMB form for the last child of our family, Atinuke, to record ‘Little Money’. Those days, when you want to get JAMB forms, you go to Ikoyi (Lagos)for it. When I got to the Third Mainland Bridge, at Iyana Oworo end of the bridge, I started contemplating whether to board a bus to Ikoyi or not.
After some time,I went to Akoka from there and headed to ID Cabasa’s studio and gave him the N10,000 with me.“I told him I would use the money to record two songs, but I felt I should do ‘Little Money’ first. I can remember while that song was still on the mix, some friends of Cabasa that came around liked it and asked who did the song. They told Cabasa to quickly finish mixing the song and get it released. Some of them gave me money as a form of encouragement and I was able to get the N10,000 back,” 9ice narrated.

11 TERRY G- I Became Frustrated As I Sang R&B But Couldn’t Make It

Popular singer Terry G has said he made no money when he started singing because he started with R&B songs. He said but soon as he changed his style of music to what people have termed madness, he began to make a lot of money.

His words;
“What gives me inspiration is frustration. I was frustrated; I used to sing r’n’b songs just like my fans that were following from the beginning would know. I tried to do good music but it didn’t put food on my table, so frustration came up and frustration gave me a sign asign that you have tomake money through frustration. Right now I’m being termed a mad man because I make money through madness”.

12 HALIMAH ABUBAKAR- My Family Lost Everything To Savannah Bank

So many people may have heard quite a lot about actress, Halima Abubakar but I bet you may not have heard this horrible story of how the controversial actress’ family went through a lot after losing all they had to the closure of defunct Savanah Bank Plc owned by former Governor, Jim Nwobodo. Here is how she captured her answer when an interviewer asked about her growing up.

“Life growing up was mixed, in the sense that I was born into money, but we lost all we had to Savanah Bank, of which my dad was a boss at different branches. Savanah Bank closed, so was his money. I don’t want to lie to you, you are hearing from me, not a copied interview and I will try to be honest”. It may not be wrong to say that the actress has a grass to grace story,especially with her recent achievements as a farmer, entrepreneur and actress.

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13 JOSEPH BENJAMIN- I Moved From Being A Bus Conductor, Security Guard, Waiter, Bakery Worker To A Shoe Seller.The Kogi born actor has done enough to earn him a star status in Nollywood, but his role as co-presenter in MTN Project Fame West Africa shone the spotlight on Benjamin.Joseph Benjamin was on Inspiration FM sometime ago with Wana Udobang on the show ‘Talk About It’ when he disclosed the rough roads he had to travel before becoming who he is today.

“I’ve moved from being a bus conductor, security guard, waiter, worked in a Bakery, sold shoes at Balogun; then moved into IT before acting.”People’s feedback on twitter showed her inspired they were with his story as he continued giving tips on how goals could be achieved.“Keep improving your craft. Nourish that which you have. Be your own inspiration!”

Speaking on start-up businesses, Benjamin had this to say;
”Understand your market before you decide what you want to do.”

14 TONTO DIKEH- “I Used To Beg For Food And Clean Rooms For N200″

Tonto is an A-list actress and maybe a D-list singer. But she struggled before fame came to her.
She captured her grass to grace story below:

“Hmmmm looking back and all I can say iz Lord I thank you for talent oh life waz nt easy somtimz it seemz iz d end of d world, n somtimz I even sit n askGod why me? N somtimz I used to say why waz Int born abroad cuz I used to think money fall frm tree ova der! Uni life waz so hard for me, handouts I could not afford I beg frm hand to hand jst to eat!Denwil be jeans @ alaba market if d jeanz is longer Dan me I will cut it to my size n I will say iz rugged jeans! I will ask frdz for favour b4 they help they will ask me to do somtin for dem eg clean their room, help with course work jst to hav 2000 nair gosh, I never allowed dat to pull me down play like play I finished my uni n graduate with 2nd class Engineering!Job waz hard to get mov frm place to place until 1 day I came across a poster dat says BE THE NEXT MOVIESTAR I applied and to GOD be the Glory THEY called me I waz sort listed for the realty TV show tho I dint win tho I dint win but I came out 2nd and the rest iz history so palz if I can make it in 9ja! U can also do dsame life iz full of HARD TIMEZ but never let it break u down, never give up fight for what u believe cause God haz iz special plan for u! Diz my life my story hope to read urz som day n I see greatness in daz readn diz

15 IK OGBONNA- I Was Homeless, Slept In The Streets, Cars & At Clubs

Ik Ogbonna is a model and gradually becoming a top actor.
He recently shared his grass to grace story.

“I can never tell people what to say. There is freedom of speech which God gave us, which our constitutional so gave us. People don’t really know my story. I have heard different things about me. I have heard that I am a gigolo, gay that I have foolish attitude, that I am a snub. But if they get closer to me they would say they did know I am this kind of person.

Some people don’t know I had a very rough beginning, even though my parents were on the average. I moved to Lagos alone and I had a very rough time. I slept on the street sometimes. Seven years ago when I moved down to Lagos, for like three years or so, I slept in cars. I had this friend of mine that I used to sleep in his car and burn insecticide at night. I always carry myself well because I know where I am destined to be. I kept on pushing. Sometimes I slept over at the club when there is no friend’s house to pass the night. I was homeless. I had things very rough at a particular point in time. It is God’s grace that is working for me.

When people say I am a gigolo, I am waiting for the person that will come and tell me I slept with his mother. If one person can just come and tell me, IK see this woman you are sleeping with, she is my mother and I will admit I am a gigolo.”

16 HARRY SONG- I Once Slept Under A Lagos Bridge, I Paid N1000 And Begged MCs Just To Perform

Stories of humble beginnings can be quite touching and revealing! Five Star Music singing star, Harrysong (who wishes to be known as Mr Songz) had revealed that he once slept under the bridge in Lagos.
Harrysong, who is a brand ambassador for communication giants, MTN, moved to Lagos in 2008 to engage in the hustle for prominence. He was previously signed onto Question Mark Entertainment, but later shifted his camp to Five Star Music, teeming up with Kcee to realize his full potential.In this new video, Harrysongz tells the story of his struggle, and expresses gratitude for his rise from grass to grace.

“Sometimes, I go to some shows when I hear a show is going on. At some places, I beg and pay to perform. I try as much as I can for people to hear mesing. Sometimes, I will beg from evening till when they will finish the show without any response.”

“I remember I attended a showat Oniru, the MC that was anchoring, I gave him 1000 naira just to perform, but the show finish, dem no allow meperform.”

Harrysong recently disclosed that he charges over one million to write a song.


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He is one of the biggest singer in Africa and is well respected.
Recently in an interview he talked about his hungry days.When you remember the days when you didn’t have money, food or a roof over your head and all that, what comes to your mind?Back then, we were on the ground already so there was no fear of losing anything so what we were doing was hoping that it will work out. There was no fear of‘what if e no work out. Nothing dey work out already so we no fear whether something no dey work out’. ‘It was ahead-ahead, we go follow this thing up, if e click, fine; if e no click, we go look for another work do’. But for me, I had never ever at any point in my life thought of doing anything else so it was no going back.
This is me, this is my life, this is what I want to do. I never ever dreamt of anything else on my life. So, back then,it was just about doing it to the end.

18 LINDA IKEJI- I Was A Waitress; Sold Beer In Hotel

Linda had it rough before making it. Today she’s a popular celebrity blogger. She has built house for her father, but him a car, and bought herself cars. She’s now in comfort.

She was admitted to study English Language in the university to her disappointment, but she decided to make the best of it.
To support herself and her family through school, Linda began working at the age of 17, doing everything from being a waitress and ushering to modelling and bar-tending, none of which paid a lot in the late 90′s. She started modeling in 1998 and quit in 2005, became a fashion columnist for a struggling celebrity magazine. After two years of toiling in the news room, she quit.
She began her advent into entertainment as a striving model while in UNILAG. She modeled for several brands, including the ‘Rose of Sharon’ label owned by former President of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN) and Nigerian billionaire and oil tycoon, Folorunsho Alakija.

She took to modeling at only 17 featuring in some of the most glamorous fashion shows in the country. Talk about St Moritz Style Selection, she was there. She has also been to ECOFEST and done several out door advertisements.

She recalls,

“I’d leave lectures, go to a hotel and sell beer from 1 pm till 10 pm. I did this for a few months. It wasn’t easy but I had to survive”.

19 WIZKID- I Walked The Streets Of Surulere; My Parents Gave Me Nothing

Excerp of his interview:

Why do you always re-echo your past in some of your songs?

–Because I want people to know. A lot of people seeme and they don’t think I’ve gone through anythingtough in my life; they see me and feel I just woke up one morning and started making money. Not a lot of people saw me when I was walking the streets of Surulere. So I need people to know that I didn’t just get things for free. Nobody gave me anything, my parents gave me nothing. This is something I did for myself. I took a loan from my friends, I jumped my books for loans and nobody saw that part of the hustle, and I think it’s just relevant for me to point it out so that my fans will be sure of where I came from.

20 JOHN OKAFOR- My Family Was The Poorest In My Village; I Sold Firewood; I Was A Butcher & A Hair Dresser

Some are born great while some are born slave. For this comic actor, John Okafor, he said that he was not in anyway born with even a spoon. In an interview recently, he said before he became a popular person, he had suffered.
The big part of his suffering was attributed to the background he came out from as he said that his family was the poorest in his hometown in Enugu State.

‘’When I lost my father, breeze pulled down our house and we became tenants in our own village.
That was Umunekwu Village in Eziokwe, NKanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State. We were eight in number; five men and three women. We were given a room in our maternal home; there we all slept at night as if we were in a cell. One leg here, the other leg there! (laughs),’’ he said.

He went further into how he grew up,
‘’once you are poor you are poor. You will be forced to see so many things from another angle. My father stopped training me when I was still very small. He died in 1975.That was how we became fathers to each other and to our mum. I was training myself in secondary school. I was doing all sorts of odd jobs. I sold fire wood, I did hair dressing, I was assembling wooden crates of minerals, I was involved in the snapping of wait-and-take pictures;I was a butcher; if you want to kill a goat, cow, pig, etc, I would do it for you, cut it to your desired sizes, and take it to your place.

That was how I was surviving. It was from those petty jobs that I got money to see myself through school. My elder brother later came in when he began earning money.

When I was picking up my admission form to study Mass Communication at the Institute of Management and Technology,IMT, Enugu, my brother told me to choose part time, because it was going to be hard if I should enter full time. There was no time for rest because it was struggle all through; struggle to go to school and struggle to feed ourselves and our mum.

We lost two members of the family along the way. My brother,I had a poverty-ridden growing up experience but today, I give all thanks to God for His mercies.’’

Compiled By : Lalasticlala

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