Africa’s entertainment industry has caught the attention of the world with its rich culture, original stories, unique music, and fierce women. Many entertainers from the continent have rose to prominence and popularity in recent years, showcasing Africa as a cultural hub to be reckoned with.
There are so many talented young Africans in the entertainment industry. We simply can’t name them all, so we’ve highlighted 10 fierce women in African entertainment who are making their mark in Africa and abroad.
Tolulope ‘Toolz’ Oniru
Nigeria’s Tolulope ‘Toolz’ Oniru is a successful businesswoman in media who was almost lost to the medical field, but realized that it wasn’t for her after a year of studying chemistry. She then changed course to study business and communications at the University of Westminster. Tools then went on to work in sales for about eight months before landing a job that would spark her passion for entertainment at MTV Networks Europe.
She later moved to the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, but her thirst for a new challenge and adventure led her back to her home country of Nigeria, and she moved to Lagos in mid-2008. While there, someone she knew told her go for auditions at one of Nigeria’s top urban radio stations called The Beat 99.9FM. She nailed the audition and was given a weekly slot. She quickly moved up the ranks and now hosts her own radio show called ‘The Midday Show with Toolz’, and is considered to be one of Nigeria’s most popular media personalities.
Outside of her radio work, Toolz also contributes to the MTV Base Official Naija Top 10 show and twice served as a judge for the Channel O Music Video Awards.
She has also won numerous awards, notably ‘Radio Presenter of the Year’ from the Nigerian Broadcasters Awards in 2010, and ‘Media Personality of the Year’ from the Nigerian Entertainment Awards. Toolz is one of the best fierce women in African entertainment.
Joselyn Canfor Dumas is a Ghanaian entertainment powerhouse who rose to prominence after being featured in a film titled Perfect Picture and being headhunted by one of Ghana’s biggest television networks to host their first in-house flagship talk show titled The One Show, which aired from 2010 to 2014. Joselyn currently hosts her own popular TV talk show At Home With Joselyn Dumas, where she interviews celebrities in the comfort of her home.
She has had a successful film career, with notable movies such as Adams Apples (which landed her a nomination for ‘Best Actress in a lead role’ alongside Hollywood Actress Kimberly Elise at the 2011 Ghana Movie Awards), Love or Something Like That (co-produced by her production company, Virgo Sun Company Limited), A Northern Affair and a series titled Lekki Wives.
Joselyn also co-produced one of Ghana’s most prestigious beauty pageants, Miss Malaika Ghana, from 2008 to 2010.
Her passion for giving back to society led to the creation of The Joselyn Canfor-Dumas Foundation, which addresses the needs of vulnerable children in Ghana.
She has won numerous awards, including ‘Best Instagram Page’ at the 2015 Blog Ghana Awards, ‘Best Actress’ at the 2015 GN Bank Awards and ‘Outstanding Personality in Creative Entrepreneurship’ at the 2014 All Africa Media Networks.
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde
Dubbed as the “Queen of Nollywood”, Omotola Ekeinde is one of the most successful actresses to come out of Nigeria’s film industry, with about 300 films under her belt. Omotola was also named as one of the ‘Top 100 Influential People in the World’ by Time Magazine.
Omotola started working as a model at the age of 15 when when she lost her father and had to support her family. Two years later she made her film debut with a lead role in the movie ‘Venom of Justice’. Her performance as the lead character in the popular movie ‘Mortal Inheritance’ won her the prestigious Thema Awards 1996/97 for the Best Actress in an English-speaking role and Best Actress Overall. This only catapulted her career to make her one of the most sought-after actress in Nollywood, starring in top movies such as Lost Kingdom 2 and Kosorugun 2, and earning awards such as a Grand Achiever Award at the Global Excellence Recognition Awards in 2004.
As a musician, she released her first album titled ‘GBA’ in 2005 followed by her sophomore album titled ‘Me, Myself, and Eyes’. She has collaborated with prominent international songwriters such as Drumma Boy and Jon Jon Traxx, and has also worked with R&B artist Bobby Valentino.
As a fierce human rights campaigner, Omotola’s philanthropic efforts are centered on her NGO ‘Omotola Youth Empowerment Programme’, which brings thousands of youths together every year for empowerment walks and conventions. In 2005, she became a United Nations World Food Programme Ambassador, and in 2011 became an Amnesty International campaigner. One of her most recent campaigns calls on government and oil companies to clean up the Niger Delta.
Nicknamed ‘Omosexy’ by her husband Matthew Ekeinde, she has a teenage son who is fast becoming known as one of the youngest music producers in Africa.
Jackie Appiah is a seasoned actress who started her career at the age of 12 when she starred in the TV series Things We Do for Love. Jackie was born in Canada and relocated to Ghana with her family in 1993.
She also starred in the hit movie ‘Beyoncé – The President’s Daughter’ alongside prominent Ghanaian actors Van Vicker and Nadia Buari.
Jackie has graced many magazine covers and billboards, and has won numerous awards including ‘Best Supporting Actress’ at the Africa Movie Academy Awards.
Her popularity has landed her a large social media following, with over 1.7 million fans on Facebook.
Terry Pheto is an award-winning actress and producer, best known for her leading role as Miriam in the 2005 Oscar-winning feature film ‘Tsotsi’.
She grew up in Soweto, and got her big break at the age of 21 when she was spotted by casting director Moonyeenn Lee in a theatre group in Soweto during the casting process for ‘Tsotsi’. She has also featured in the films ‘Catch A Fire’ and ‘Sekalli Le Meokgo’ in 2006 and ‘Goodbye Bafana’ in 2007 where she played the role of Nelson Mandela’s daughter Zinzi. She later played the role of Nelson Mandela’s first wife Evelyn Mase in the popular ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’.
Her television work includes productions such as ‘Zone 14’, ‘Hopeville’, ‘Jacob’s Cross’, and recently, ‘Rockville Season 3’.
Terry was named as the face of L’Oreal in 2008, and has graced the covers of numerous magazines over the years such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and True Love Magazine. In 2011, she landed a recurring role of a heart surgeon in the popular international soapie ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’.
She now has her own production company called Leading Lady Productions, which recently produced ‘Ayanda and the Mechanic’, a film which was honored with The Special Jury Prize at the 2015 LA Film Festival.
Lola Monroe, real name Fershgenet Melaku, is a hip hop artist of Ethiopian and Trinidadian descent living in the United States. Lola is also an actress and a former model.
Born in Addis Ababa and raised in Washington D.C, her interest in the arts was sparked when she started writing poems and songs at the age of 12. Lola burst into the music scene with her first mix titled ‘Boss Bitch’s World’, followed by ‘The Lola Monroe Chronicles’ and a collaborative tape with the now-incarcerated Lil’ Boosie, called ‘The Untouchables’. These mixtapes led her to a BET’s Best Female Hip Hop Artist nomination in 2011. That same year she was signed to Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang label, which houses artists such as Ty Dollar $ign and and Juicy, but parted ways with the label after two years.
Lola got her first big break when she was discovered by her manager’s partner who was a photographer. She did her first modeling publication work, and was soon spotted by rapper 50 Cent who then featured her in his artists’ music videos. She also created the Bosset movement, which is a social movement centered about female empowerment. In an interview with Global Grind, she revealed that one of her darkest moments was being abused by an uncle that she was living with when she was a teen. This experience led her to establish the Triumphant Angel Foundation, which focuses on helping those affected by abuse.
Nigeria’s popular female music artist Tiwa Savage started her music career started when she was a member of her high school band and began writing her own songs. At the age of 16 she landed an opportunity to be a back-up singer for George Michael, which lead to more singing opportunities with prominent artists such as Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan and Kelly Clarkson. She also has background vocal credits on Whitney Houston’s album ‘I Look To You’, and is signed to Sony ATV as a songwriter. Tiwa co-wrote Fantasia’s ‘Collard Greens and Cornbread’ track on the Grammy nominated album ‘Back To Me’, as well as Monica’s ‘New Life’.
She rose to prominence in 2010 with the release of her smash hit ‘Kele Kele Love’, followed by hit singles ‘Love Me, Love Me’, ‘Without My Heart’, ‘Ife Wa Gbona’, ‘Eminando’ and the recent smash hit with Mavin Records which also won ‘Song of the Year’ at the 2015 MTV Africa Music Awards ‘Dorobucci’. She set up her own record label in 2010 called 323 Entertainment.
Interesting facts about Tiwa include that she was born and bred in Lagos, and graduated from the University of Kent in the UK with a degree in business administration and accounts. In 2006, she entered the UK’s X-Factor, and made it to the Top 24. In 2011, she co-hosted Nigerian Idol Season II alongside Illrymz, and acted alongside Nollywood heavyweights Joke Silva and Ireti Doyle in the stage adaptation of ‘For Coloured Girls’. Twins has won numerous awards, including ‘Best Vocal Performance’ for ‘Love Me, Love Me‘ at The Headies, ‘Best Female’ for the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards, and ‘Most Gifted Female’ at the 2014 Channel O Music Video Awards.
She married her manager Tunji “TJ Billz” Balogun in 2013, and they welcomed their first child in July 2015.
Menna Shalaby is an Egyptian actress and UNAIDS goodwill ambassador for AIDS awareness who was introduced to the world of fame through her famous mother who was a dancer, Zizi Mustafa. She made her film debut with ‘Al-saher’ in 2001, directed by Radwan El-Kashef, who would then become her mentor.
She solidified her acting skills by featuring in films such as ‘Iw’a Wishak’ and ‘The Best of Times’ in 2004. Menna has also played prominent roles in various TV series, most notably in ‘Sekket El Helaly’ and ‘Harb El Gawasis’.
She has won numerous awards for her work, including ‘Best Actress’ at the National Film Festival for Egyptian Cinema for her role in ‘Al Saher’ in 2001, Best Actress at the National Film Festival for Egyptian Cinema for her role in ‘An Eleshk Wel Hawa‘ in 2007 and Special Mention at the Alexandria Film Festival for her role in ‘Wahed men Elnas‘ in 2009. She also won an award for ‘Best Actress in a leading role’ at the ART Oscar for her role in the TV series ‘Harb El Gawasis’ in 2009.
Vimbai Mutinhiri is a Zimbabwean model, television personality, actress and musician who is popularly known for being a housemate on Big Brother Amplified in 2011 (she was evicted from the house on the 84th day out of the 91 day competition).
Vimbai resided in different countries from the time she was born as her parents served as cabinet ministers in Zimbabwe and frequently travelled. She was born in Zimbabwe but raised in Serbia and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Her career kicked off when she was 15-years-old as an actress in Zimbabwe when she starred in the short film ‘Who’s In Charge’. The film was featured in the Zimbabwe International Film Festival in 2001. She was also featured on ‘Studio 263’ in 2009. Vimbai worked as a full-time model when she lived in South Africa, and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Cape Town.
She was named ‘Miss Global Face of Bio Oil’ after doing several campaigns for the company, and has also worked on several campaigns for major companies including MTV Base, Estee Lauder and Zain. She is a prominent feature on the runway of Zimbabwe Fashion Week, and she has also graced the runway of SA Fashion Week.
With her television work, Vimbai landed a presenter spot on Africa Magic’s Stargist, which is a daily entertainment show in 2012. She has also done hosting work for prominent entertainment events, and even released a music album titled ‘Vimbai‘ in 2011.
Bonang Matheba is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s favourite entertainment personalities. The TV and radio presenter, MC and businesswoman began her career at the age of 15 as a TV presenter on a show called ‘Manhattan’s Fantasy Challenge‘. She skyrocketed to fame when she landed a co-presenter spot on the music and entertainment show ‘Live’ from 2007 to 2012.
During the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010, she presented the sports show ‘Tjovitjo’ which was broadcast on Supersport. Two years later she landed a presenting spot on premium lifestyle and magazine TV show, Top Billing. A year later she hosted popular singing competition ‘Clash of the Choirs’, and was announced as Revlon’s first South African brand ambassador. Bonang partnered with Woolworths to release her lingerie line called ‘Distraction By Bonang’ in 2014. In the same year, she was the first black woman to grace the cover of fashion magazine Glamour South Africa.
Apart from television, Bonang also has a strong following on radio. She started out as a DJ on the Johannesburg-based young adult station YFM in 2009 as the host of a hip hop show. She now hosts ‘The Front Row’ on Metro FM.
Bonang has received numerous accolades, notably the ’2015 Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award’ for Best South African Radio DJ, a 2014 You Spectacular Award for ‘Most Stylish Female Celebrity in South Africa’, and a Feather Award for ‘Most Stylish Female Personality’.