Nollywood film director and one of Nigeria’s biggest screen stars, Genevieve Nnaji is the toast of many on the African continent and beyond.
Nnaji is a household name in Nigeria. She has contributed immensely to the Nigeria multi-billion-dollar movie industry. Recently, she made history with her directorial debut Lionheart.
The film, which debuted on Netflix was plotted around a woman who had to rise to the task of running her father’s company. It soon became Netflix’s first original film from Nigeria after it purchased the worldwide rights in September.
The 40-year-old, who started acting at age eight, starring in the popular TV soap Ripples has since starred in over 80 films leading to her rise to prominence across the globe, but not without setbacks and challenges.
Reportedly, she lost her job in 2004 when she was blacklisted by a powerful cartel of film studios in Nigeria, along with several other A-list actors.
According to BBC Igbo reporter Vining Ogu, the studios at the time felt they were collecting too much money and felt they were being held to ransom. Nnaji then resorted to doing music. She released an album titled “One Logologo Line”.
Looking back at her life from a middle-class home with an engineer father and a teacher as a mother in Nigeria’s former capital city of Lagos, Nnaji has no doubt earned her place in the hearts of many through her hard work.
At the age of 17, she got pregnant and that affected her education. However, with the support of her parents she was able to resume schooling after delivery.
She schooled at Methodist Girls College, Yaba Lagos and went on to the university of Lagos. While at the university, she auditioned for acting jobs.
At the age of 19 she became known in the Nigerian film industry with the movie “Most Wanted”. Her subsequent movies included Last Party, Mark of the Beast and Ijele. In 2010, she starred in the award-winning film Ijé: The Journey.
Besides being an actress, Nnaji is also a model. She has featured in several commercials in Nigeria. In 2010 she became the face of MUD in Nigeria.
According to her, even though becoming pregnant as a teenager slowed her down, she is thankful that she did not abort the child. She said she is thankful for how her life has panned out with a beautiful daughter, Theodora Chimebuka Nnaji and a successful career.
Apart from acting and directing, she is also a business woman. She has a clothing line, St. Genevieve with a $10 million net worth.
She’s won several awards including the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 2005, making her the first actress to win the award. She got a Chieftaincy title in 2014 as the Eze Ada I of Amuzu Nweafor in Imo State.
Nnaji was honoured as a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) of Niger in 2011 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration for her contributions to the growth of Nollywood.
Last year, her recently directed movie, ‘Lion Heart’ sold to Netflix at N1,385,100,000 ($3.8 million) and the actress has been considered the first Nollywood billionaire.
Even though the Lionheart comedy movie got dropped from the Oscars because it had ‘too much dialogue in English’, it is the country’s first-ever submission vying for Oscar’s Best International Feature film category.