Revealed: Meet 7 most influential women in Nollywood
Nigerian women are making waves in Nollywood and showing that women can’t be kept in the background anymore. From acting to producing and then distributing content, Nigerian women in Nollywood are taking giant strides.
In no particular order, TheNewsGuru takes a look 7 influential women making waves in Nollywood.
- Mo Abudu
Mo Abudu has spent the last decade subtly changing the face of Africa centered entertainment through Ebony Life TV and Ebony Life Productions, her behemoth pioneer in programming. In addition, Ms Abudu has taken on the hat of super producer, and has been behind many of the most successful and record-breaking films ever to come out of Nigeria, helping discover and cement the careers of Adesua Etomi, Bankole Wellington and reviving the careers of Sola Sobowale and Richard Mofe Damijo on The Wedding Party, and also an executive producer on Fifty, Royal Hibiscus Hotel, Chief Daddy and Oloture.
2. Biodun Stephen
An AMVCA nominee and winner of two best of Nollywood awards, Biodun Stephen is a bonafide major player in Nollywood. With formal training at Obafemi Awolowo University and The London Film School, she brings expertise to her passion and talent. Her credits range from director to producer in acclaimed features like Tiwa’s Baggage, Ehi’s Bitter’s, Ovi’s Voice and Sobi’s Mystic. As she once said in an interview, “there is no better time to be in Nollywood than now”, and with the way her career is going, we agree.
3. Toyin Abraham
Since her debut in 2003, Toyin Abraham (nee Aimakhu) has done great things in the film industry. She is also one of the few star actresses who commands English and Yoruba speaking Nollywood with equal flair. Not content to merely be a star in other filmmaker’s vehicles, Abraham transitioned into producing in 2017, taking a leaf from Funke Akindele’s book and investing in her own comedy that builds on one of her most succesful tropes. The project, Alakada and its sequel Alakada reloaded became massive commercial successes, and gave Abraham the bankability to truly pursue her quest to conquer the film industry on the continent. She has reached even bigger peaks and is constantly in demand for her hilarious portrayal as the lovable girl from the village.
Jadesola Osibieru is one of the loudest voices working in Nollywood today. And to think we have been blessed with a director this stellar because a new generation bank decided to take a chance on new media. A representation of the cosmopolitan Nigerian, Jade Osiberu introduced her unique perspective on the lives of upper middle class Nigerian youth by writing, directing and producing the break out series, Gidi Up that chronicled the lives of young Nigerians like no other had done in recent memory, becoming one of the flagship shows for Ndani TV with a loyal fanbase that still asks for a third season till today.
Her film debut Isoken, not only shone Dakore Egbuson in a bold new light, but touched on topical issues of Nigerian spinsters with wit, grace and realism. Isoken premiered in London and then went on to screen around Europe.
4.Mary Remmy Njoku
Mary Remmy Njoku is the undoubted queen of Nollywood content and distribution, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. As the CEO of ROK studios, and partner to Jason Njoku of Iroko TV, Mary has amassed production, and directing credits on television series, and films that have found their way into an unprecedented number of screens in Nigeria and abroad today. With credits like Husbands of Lagos, Thy Will Be Done, Northern Mercy, Single Ladies and more, Mary Remy Njoku is leading a charge of accessible cost-efficient entertainment centered content all made in Nigeria.
4. Funke Akindele
Funke Akindele is the rare performer whose talent transcends the boundaries of one medium and whose skill collects equal response be it drama or comedy. Since her days on the classic youth series I Need To Know, Funke Akindele has found ways to combine social activism, stellar acting and slapstick comedy to create unforgettable cinema and become one of the most loved faces in Nollywood. Her tear inducing (yes it was that funny) performance in Jenifa was a catalyst that inspired the kind of success that books deserve to be written about. Parlaying it into sequels, a television show (Jenifa’s Diary) and Africa Magic Viewer Choice Awards (even launching the acting career of Falz The Bahd Guy), Funke Akindele has made an empire out of acting and business skills. She is also a big heart with her Jenifa Foundation providing young people with vocational skills. We can only sit back and admire.
5. Mildred Okwo
For those in the know, Mildred Okwo is more than just a Nollywood commentator mentoring young critics and speaking truth to power, she is also an accomplished filmmaker and indie darling. A trained lawyer, a student of theatre arts, a legendary director and producer and one of the most interesting voices on social media from the Nigerian film industry. Mildred’s filmography includes Thirty Days, The Meeting and Suru L’ere. She has been was honored by Elle magazine as one of the fifty women shaping Africa, and has won Africa Magic Viewer Choice Awards, African Movie Academy Awards and the Publix du Prix at the Nollywood festival in Paris. Mildred is also on the Nigerian Oscars Selection committee. In their capacity which has been approved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, they will screen all potential Nigerian contenders hoping to secure a nomination and win for the Academy Award for best foreign movie.
The first many Nigerian film lovers heard of Rahma Sadau was her ban from Kannywood in 2016 for ‘lewd behaviour’ in a music video. For people outside of Northern Nigeria, the ban seemed preposterous, and the sympathy Sadau gained helped her rebrand and make a bid for a crossover into Nollywood, a move that until then had only been successfully attempted by male actors Ali Nuhu and Sani Danja. Sadau was in a unique position though, her genuine Hausa accent and her popularity among Northern audiences made her an interesting asset to anyone looking to make a movie with national appeal.
Roles on ‘Hakkunde’ allowed her parlay that fame into box office success, and her in MTV’s Shuga, and Ebony Life’s hit series, Sons of The Caliphate and most recently Up North proved she could evolve to meet the demands of cross genre roles.
Since her breakout role as Toyin Tomato in the beloved anthology television series Super Story, Sola Sobowale has been a fixture in the rich history of Nollywood. Her career defining turns in her early years became the definitive standard for an evocative dramatic performance but as old Nollywood went into a temporary decline, Sobowale went underground to regroup and rebrand.
But over the last few years, she has struck lightning twice, first tapping into the nostalgia of the older generation who grew up with her on their screens, and introducing herself to a newer younger audience with the kind of career high performances we rarely see in Nollywood. . In not one but two star making roles, Sobowale proved she still had the chops and could out act any Nollywood actress alive. She came back into the hearts and minds of Nigerians as the loquacious and catty Tinuade Coker in The Wedding Party, and in a darker turn for King of Boys as Alhaja Eniola Salami. Between her and Kemi Adetiba, Nollywood and world waits with baited breath for what other brilliant creations this fertile and storied relationship between these two will foster.