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5 Famous People You Did Not Know Were Of Nigerian Descent

Commonly referred to as the “Giant of Africa”, Nigeria, located in the West of Africa, is the most populous country on the continent.

With 190 million people, it is the seventh most populous country in the world and has the largest youth population after India and China.

Its citizens have travelled far and wide, as Nigerians are believed to be able to survive in whichever country they find themselves.

As of 2015, the Nigerian economy was the 20th largest in the world, worth of more than $500 billion and $1 trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity.

Its over 250 ethnic groups make the country a multinational state of which the three largest are the Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo.

In Africa, it boasts of one of the most lucrative music and movie industries. In the entertainment industry, there are several famous black people that are excellent in their art both locally and internationally.

What most people do not know is that many of them are of Nigerian descent. Here are some of them:

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chiwetel is one of the few popular Nigerian celebrities making waves in the diaspora. Born in London’s Forest Gate to Nigerian parents of Igbo descent, his childhood was slightly traumatic as an incident in 1988 led to the death of his father and left a visible scar on his forehead.

Identifying his passion for the art, Ejiofor began acting in school plays at his junior high school. His gift and passion led him to the London Academy of Music and Drama Art after which he got cast in his first professional movie, Steven Spielberg’s Amistad at age 19.

Since then, he has portrayed the characters Okwe in Dirty Pretty Things (2002), Lola in Kinky Boots (2005), The Operative in Serenity (2005), and Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave (2013).

He also played Vincent Kapoor in The Martian (2015), Karl Mordo in Doctor Strange (2016), Dr Watson in Sherlock Gnomes (2018) and Trywell Kamkwamba in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019).

He voiced Scar in the 2019 remake of The Lion King and will be featured in the upcoming fantasy film, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

In 2008, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the arts. He was elevated to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2015 Birthday Honours.

Adewole Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Adewole Akinnuoye-Agbaje 

Akinnuoye-Agbaje had a torrid childhood. Born in London to Nigerian parents of Yoruba descent, Akinnuoye- Agbaje faced an identity crisis after his parents gave him up to a white working-class family in Tilbury, Essex. Clearly not excited about living with foster parents, he came back to Nigeria to find his roots and was later sent back by his parents due to his inability to speak the Yoruba language.

He went back to London and began modelling, acting and directing. As an actor, he has starred in more than a dozen movies, including Suicide SquadThor: The Dark WorldPompeii, and Oz.

Sophie Okonedo
Sophie Okonedo

Sophie Okonedo

Popular for winning an Academy Award for her role as Tatiana Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda (2004) and nominated for a Golden Globe Award, Sophie Okonedo was born on August 11, 1968, in London to a Jewish Pilates teacher and a British-Nigerian who worked for the government. She began her career in 1991, featuring in Young Soul Rebels before appearing in other blockbuster movies between then and 2002

She has won numerous accolades, including NAACP Image Award, Tony Awards, British Independent Film Award, and BAFTA TV Award for her role in drama series Criminal Justice in 2009.

Okonedo was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours, and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours.

Zain Asher

Zain Asher

Zain Ejiofor Asher is the younger sister of Nigerian actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Born in London to Nigerian parents, she began her career as a full-time reporter for Money, where she wrote about personal finance in her articles. In 2005, she graduated from Keble College, Oxford University. She subsequently graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York in 2006.

She currently anchors CNN newsroom on CNN International.

David Oyelowo
David Oyelowo

David Oyelowo

David is a Nigerian English American actor and producer who portrayed the high-profile role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2014 biographical drama film, Selma. Born in London to parents from the West of Nigeria, David had to endure a torrid time moving from London to Lagos at a tender age.

After graduating from “Military-style” boarding school in Lagos, he returned to London at age 14. He has had lead roles in A United Kingdom (2016), as well as, playing the role of a chess coach in Queen of Katwe (2016). He has played supporting roles in the films Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Lincoln (2012), Jack Reacher (2012), and garnered praise for portraying Louis Gaines in The Butler (2013). On television, he played MI5 officer Danny Hunter in the British drama series.


Written by How Africa

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