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Genevieve Nnaji: Is She The ‘Julia Roberts’ of Africa?

Happy Valentine’s Day Africa!!! I trust we all have incredible acts of love planned for our families, friends and colleagues. Have a swell time loving others, and don’t stop the music just because it ain’t the 14th of February no more; keep on loving.

Genevieve Nnaji

Our star in Africa today is a personal favourite of mine; Genny Nnaji. A thespian extraordinaire, Genny wields her talent so believably, so effortlessly, ahhhh. She is a joy to watch on the silver screen; forgive my mooning, but seeing as we are celebrating love…you get my meaning, don’t ya?

Genevieve Nnaji was born to act. She started her acting career as a child actress on the then-popular television soap opera “Ripples” at the age of 8. She was also featured in several commercials, some of which included Pronto beverage and Omo detergent. Born 34 years ago to an Engineer Father and Teacher Mom, Genny is the fourth of eight children who grew up in the bustling city of Lagos. She attended the Methodist Girls College Yaba before heading to the University of Lagos. Her thirst for the screen lingered on, and she continually auditioned for movie roles concurrent with her educational pursuits, which unfortunately meant that she had to drop out at some point. Details are sketchy as to when she eventually completed her studies.

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She ‘suffered’ through the minor ‘wakapass’ roles, and in 1998, at the age of 19, she made her debut in the growing Nigerian film industry with the movie “Most Wanted.” Her subsequent movies–“Last Party,” “Mark of the Beast,” and “Ijele” (which is still considered to be one of her best epic performances to date) marked her for instant and permanent stardom.

Her filmography till date is simply staggering. And not just any old movie, for Genny chooses her roles with precision. In one of her quotes culled from, Genny stated, “Now, I have got to a point, where I have to shoot movies just for me. I have to enjoy what I am doing. I have to enjoy the story and I have to like the script, because that is my only reward. It is not all about the money, but the reward for me comes from when I am in a good movie where I enjoy what I am doing. That is where I derive pleasure.”

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Her most recent movies with all of the industry greats from 2005, include, Darkest Night, Games Women Play, and Rip-Off. In 2006 she starred in Girls Cot, 30 Days – this film received 10 nominations at the African Movie Academy Awards in 2008. In 2007, Letters to a Stranger, and Warrior’s Heart. 2008 saw her in Beautiful Soul, Olivia-this film received 3 African Movie Academy Award nominations. Broken Tears, Critical Condition, River of Tears and My Idol finished up her roll call for 2008. In 2009, there was Silent Scandal   and Jessy; 2010 saw her play a heartrending, powerful role in Ijé: The Journey with Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and an international cast. Tango with me, Bursting Out and Mirror Boy- which has received numerous nominations at the African Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards 2013 including the Best Actress Nomination. Her 2011 movie was Sacred Lies with Olu Jacobs, Desmond Elliot and Nadia Buari. She stars alongside Hollywood actor Isaiah Washington in the Hollywood/Nollywood movie produced by Nigerian movie producer, Tony Abulu in 2012/2013. The movie about finding a cure to cancer also features Vivica A. Fox, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Stephanie Okereke, Desmond Elliot, Bern Cohen, Zack Orji and many more brilliant actors.

Genny was named Best Actress of the Year in the 2001 City People Awards and Best Actress in a leading role in the inaugural African Movie Academy Awards in 2005. We wish her well in the forthcoming African Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards.


Success on the silver screen made her the popular choice when the ‘face of lux’ campaign was embarked upon in 2004. Out of several celebrities all over Africa, Genevieve emerged with the highest votes. She graced several billboards and television stations with her beauty and elegance for the duration of the campaign which was said to be worth millions of naira. In May 2010, Genny was appointed to be the official “Face of MUD” in Nigeria. MUD, an acronym for Make-Up Designory, ‘is a private post-secondary institution that provides training every year to hundreds of students from around the world to work in fashion, film, and television. Specialties include beauty make-up artistry, hairstyling, wardrobe, character make-up and special make-up effects. The school has two locations, one in Los Angeles (founded in 1997) and one in New York City (founded in 2005). In addition, the school has its own cosmetics line, with retailers and distributors in the USA, United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Australia, West Africa, Mexico, Guam, Dominican Republic and now, Nigeria. The school has been referred to as “the Harvard of make-up schools”.’ []

Flashback: In 2004 Genny signed a recording contract with EKB Records, a Ghanaian record label, and released her debut album, “One Logologo Line,” a mix of various styles of so-called urban music. I never listened to this, and I heard it was less than fantastic, so let’s move on quickly. Actresses and actors please don’t go waxing albums; singing and acting are two different force-fields entirely. A talented singer may be able to shine on the silver screen as sometimes happens in Hollywood, but vice versa is usually unappreciated and unwelcome.

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Oh yes! More to Genny than acting [not the singing though]. In 2008, Genevieve launched her clothing line, St. Genevieve, which donates a percentage of its proceeds to charity–orphanages.

Genny has been hailed globally by OPRAH, no less and CNN, as the ‘Julia Roberts’ of Africa…wow. Top that if you can. In 2009, the Mbaise Julia Roberts made history by being the first Nigerian actress to be profiled on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on an episode about the most popular people around the world. Genny was ranked fourth in a Marie Claire magazine article examining the most beautiful women in the world alongside Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Ranked #19 in Forbes “40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa” in 2011, Genny is one of the highest paid actresses in Nollywood today; a fact which led to her ‘disbarment’ from the Nigerian movie industry sometime in 2004 alongside other high-earning stars.

Genny was listed amongst the top 100 dynamic women by Arise Magazine in 2012. The Nigerian Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ace fashion designer Deola Sagoe and South African legendary singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, also made the list of women who have influenced and impacted the society through their chosen professions. Genny also has the esteemed letters [MFR] after her name; courtesy of receiving the national award given to deserving Nigerians by the President.

What more can I say? Genny still has greater aspirations, so we can expect to see more of her dazzling performances. Another quote from her tells the tale: “I want to be further challenged in my career, I don’t think I have reached my peak necessarily so I hope for other opportunities, greater opportunities to express myself. Mostly because there is still something inside of me that I just feel I haven’t let out and it’s really trying to come out and trying to burst loose so I’m hoping for that opportunity… I just want that story, that story that challenges me even further.”

Go Genny!!!

Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya
Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya
5 Things You Didn't Know About Jennifer in 2015: 1. Her newest collection of short stories, 'The Curious Case of the Small Pikin & Other Stories' is available on 2. She ported from Blogger to WordPress and shares her uncensored thoughts on 3. She is an aspiring Filmmaker & Talk-show Host[ess] 4. She's a mother of two, wife of one and daughter of God. 5. She plans to travel around the world in less than 80 days... Now you Know! Find me on Twitter: @jennynkem

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  1. First Of All I Am Sierra Leonean By The Name Of Meshach Sullay Koroma. All My Life Genny Is Someone I Want To Be Part Of. If Only I Could Have The Opportunity Meet With You Genny Then I Will Ask You For Adorption That You Would Be My Mother. I Love May God Continue To Bless And Elevate You In Jesus.

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