You will either agree, disagree or just argue it out with your friends as some names you thought would not make it to the list are there and some you believe should have made it aren’t there. So let’s look at it;
The list is in no particular order
With over 16 movies, no actress in Nigeria can boast of heavy movie catalogue like Uche Jombo. There is also no other actress that commands the kind of reverence Uche does among fellow actresses and actors, most especially the young ones. The general saying is, Uche now has power to make star of a starlet, and only a handful of people will fall into that category in Nollywood. Despite being active production-wise, Uche’s face still adorns numerous posters as lead actress. Aside being the highest grossing actress-producer among her colleagues, Uche has two known properties, one in Lagos, the other in Abia, her home town (where she is a chief). Her influence in and out of the industry is definitely not in doubt.
She might not have done any major movie of late but there is no wishing Genevieve’s influence away in Nollywood. Time and over again, except for ‘Doctor Bello’, she has delivered top box-office returns for every movie she featured in. Her less appearance in movies has been atoned for with appearances on website and blogosphere.
She is one of the two most popular figures in Nollywood and has evolved into an influential and stylish brand with cult following. Aside delivering back to back box office returns (Ije, Weekend Getaway (despite negative reviews), Tango With Me, Mirror Boy, and most recently, Half of a Yellow Sun), Genny as she’s popularly called is the most ‘endorsed’ celebrity by corporate Nigeria. She has been reported to rake in millions most bank MDs will only dream about and has extensive investment in real estate. Aside all these, Genny has been reported to be the most stylish of the Nollywood top three; true or false, we can’t say but what is not in doubt is her popularity, influence and closeness to people in the corridors of power
Rita Dominic Long before many people left Asaba behind, Rita Dominic did. She was sure she has a way to evolve into something bigger. She did. She became known for style, selected few movies and went on to produce the smash hit, ‘The Meeting’ which reaffirmed her place as one of the leading women in Nollywood. Her human relations skill is almost next to none. Except for Monalisa, there is not a celebrity who won’t listen and take action if Rita calls. So entrenched is her influence that the president sent a representative to attend the premiere of her movie in Lagos.
Love or hate the Akwa Ibom born actress, Ini is a financial war-chest of sort. Her brand value might not be at par with some Nollywood leading ladies but you can’t count top five richest actresses in Nollywood and her name won’t make the list. Aside being busy in both ‘old’ and ‘new’ Nollywood commanding figures between a million and N1.5 million, she has extensive and wide real estate investment that will make some realtors green with envy. Aside being close to powers-that-be in Akwa Ibom, Ini has invested in movie production as well. Aside her movies getting bought by online platforms, DSTV, marketers in Diaspora, her DVD market do good return on investment. And she’s beginning to exert her influence as executive producer, something only few actresses could lay claim to.
If Genevieve Nnaji (who coincidentally is the mentor of Mercy Johnson) has delivered back-to-back return on investment (ROI) for movies in the cinemas, Mercy Johnson must have tripled that figure in the ‘downstream sector’ of Nollywood; Asaba, Enugu, Aba, Lagos, Alaba, and African countries. At a point in Nollywood, Mercy is what determines the trend of movies to be shot. If she acts comic role and the movie becomes popular, all other producers follow suit. If she acts corporate executive with her accentuating curve, that will then become the movie trend.
MJ is still the highest paid actress in that part of Nollywood with the figure as much as N2million to N2.5million per movie. The closest challengers are Ini Edo (N1 million-N1.5million) and Chika Ike (N800 000). When she went on maternity leave for months, many producers shut down till she returned; Mercy is the market and the market is Mercy. As she prepares to become a more prominent figure in New Nollywood, let’s hope she can emulate her mentor and rule box office as well.
Blessing Effiong Egbe
She may not be very popular, as a matter of fact many Nollywood starlets are more famous but what Mrs. Egbe, the director and producer of Lekki Wives lacks in fame she makes up for in influence and money. Only few Nollywood producers could claim to generate as much as she does in influence especially among the upcoming and established stars that want to star in her hugely popular series.
As at last check, Lekki Wives season 1 to 3 has sold over a million copies and a television platform bought the right to air for a year for about N50 million. Tell me about money and influence, there you have it.
No other actress in contemporary era has transcended generation and evolved to give younger generation stiff competition like Kate Henshaw. She was in the generation of Regina Askia and Liz Benson, moved on to give Omotola and Genevieve a ride for their youthfulness, and now rolling with generation of Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju to rock live stage. Despite being over 40, Kate is truly ageless (an appellation first used for her by the publisher of iCampus). Not only is she laying claim to Nollywood stake, she is one of the few old faces adorning live stage and charting new course for that part of Nollywood.
She has the ears of the Governor and has been wearing the toga of ambassador for several corporate companies long before some of these present ambassadors joined Nollywood. If you doubt Kate’s influence ask the handlers of Onga seasoning, the kind of attention she has brought to the cooking seasoning and they will give you reasons her contract keeps getting renewed.
Omoni is about the only A-list celebrity who has defied the norms in the industry. With less than 30 movies to her credit she rubs shoulder with who-is-who in the industry. Her rise to began after playing the lead roles in ‘Figurine’ and ‘Anchor Baby’ between 2010/2011. She generated conversation and ever since, people have not stopped talking about her. She is one of the few that went to the prestigious New York Film Academy to study directing and has so far shot three movies of her own, expending over a total sum of N60 million. Now, Omoni has the power to make a star out of a starlet.
Her recent movie, ‘Being Mrs Elliot’ impressed from onset with the President, His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan hosting private guests at the Aso Rock to premiere it. The movie went on to make good impression at the box office and furthering consolidating Omoni’s place as one of the box-office queen.
It is impossible to tell the story of true Nollywood super stars without Omotola. She crisscrosses the Nollywood stage like a person born to be a star. She has been a star since 18, and almost two decades after, Omos*xy is still a star. With enviable career profile that include movies like Ije, Prostitute, Last Flight to Abuja, Blood in the Lagoon, and a TV soap she produced and directed, Omotola has more than earned her place. She has led more charitable causes than any other celeb, even as far as other African countries. So huge was Omotola’s influence that reputable Time Magazine named her as one of the world most influential persons. Talk about continental influence.
Emem Isong is not an actress but her fame and most especially her influence far exceed most of the established faces. She has established herself as the foremost female movie producer in Nollywood both in the days of Asaba and in the new Nollywood, she boldly tell friends and acquaintances that she has never lost money in movie business. She gave a lot of our established stars first lead and till date she’s still giving leads, making movies, selling movies and raking in millions. She added the director-ship title to her many titles and from the look of things, Emem might still add more.
Stephanie was the first actress to break box office record in Nigerian cinema. Despite appearing less in movies, Stephanie’s fame over the years hasn’t waned. She runs a periodic film school in conjunction with New York Film Academy and has trained thousands of young people making revolutionary films. Many of them still give her kudos for bringing ‘New York’ so to speak to Nigeria at a far lesser price. And if you don’t know, Stephanie has the ears of Mr. President, you are definitely a ‘late-comer’.