Genevieve Nnaji is one of Nollywood’s most popular actresses with an acting career spanning over two decades. She was born on 3rd May 1979 and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the modern Nollywood and her acting prowess is recognised beyond the shores of Nigeria.
During her still ongoing career in Nollywood, Genevieve Nnaji has received many awards and recognitions, even beyond Nollywood in some cases.
However, before we delve into more details into the biography of Genevieve, let us first consider some important facts about the talented and beautiful actress.
10 facts about Genevieve Nnaji that everyone needs to know
- Genevieve Nnaji was born on 3 May 1979 in Mbaise although she grew up in Lagos State. She has seven siblings.
- The star actress also had a daughter named Theodora Chimebuka Nnaji at the age of 17.
- She started acting professionally at the age of eight when she appeared in the now rested popular NTA tv-series Ripples which ran from 1988-1994.
- Genevieve Nnaji was nicknamed the Julia Roberts of Africa by Oprah Winfrey in an episode called Meet the Most Famous People in the World.
- She also has an eight-track album titled “One Logologo Line”. The actress embarked on a music career when in 2004 she and other seven actors when banned by Nollywood Film Marketers Association.
- The actress has been linked to actor Ramsey Nouah, singer D’banj and former VP Atiku Abubakar but there was no truth in any of the stories.
- Genevieve was the first female to win many notable acting awards in the women category such as the City Peoples Awards for Best Actress in 2001, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) award for Best Actress in 2003 and the Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA) for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 2005.
- Genevieve’s debut directorial film, Lionheart, was Nollywood first Netflix original film. So far, no other Nigerian filmmaker has been able to achieve that feat. The film was also Nigeria’s first submission for Best International Film at the 2019 Academy Awards although it was later disqualified by the Academy.
- The actress has a clothing line called St Genevieve, which is also available on Jumia. The proceeds of the business go to charities.
- Finally, Genevieve is a member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR). The honour was conferred to her in 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Genevieve Nnaji Biography: Early life and family
Genevieve Nnaji was born on 3rd May 1979 into a middle-class Nigerian family. She was the fourth child of a family that will later increase to eight children. Nnaji was born in Mbaise, a popular region in Imo State in southeastern Nigeria. The region consists of several towns and cities.
However, she didn’t grow up in the region as the family moved to Lagos State. Genevieve’s father, Theophilus Nnaji, worked as an engineer while her mother, Bernadette Nnaji, was a nursery school teacher.
The actress attended the revered Methodist Girls’ High School in Yaba, Lagos. The school was established in 1879 and is affiliated with the Methodist Church. It is also widely regarded as the second female secondary school and the third oldest secondary school in Nigeria.
After completing her education there, Genevieve Nnaji went on to the University of Lagos. There, she got a degree in Creative Arts.
Genevieve Nnaji Biography: Early career (1988 – 2004)
Genevieve has always had a thing for acting and begun starring in productions at the age of eight. Her first appearance was in the popular now-rested NTA tv-series Ripples in which she appeared in 1988. Ripples was widely watched in Nigeria between 1988 to 1994.
After this initial boost, she continued her passion while in school. Genevieve’s first Nollywood film was in Most Wanted, which was released in 1998. She was 19 at the time. The film also starred popular celebrities like Bob Manuel-Udokwu, Liz Benson, Ibinabo Fiberisima and Regina Askia.
By 1999 she was already playing major roles in Nollywood films and put in a stellar performance in the film Ijele. She also appeared in other successful films like Mark of the Beast and Last Party.
As of the end of the year 2002, it was clear that Genevieve Nnaji was a force to reckon with within Nollywood. So dynamic was her character interpretations that it was difficult to box her. She delivered in roles that cast her as a ‘bad girl’ with such convincing results that one could assume she was a ‘bad girl’ in real life.
Then, in other films, she is playing an innocent girl in love and fans are left biting their tongues as they realise they have failed to correctly box her.
Her roles in films like Runs! and especially Sharon Stone caught not only the eyes of local viewers but those of the international community as well. Genevieve was popular and was among the first Nigerian actors to claim some prestigious awards.
For example, according to Genevieve Nnaji’s Wikipedia page, she became the first actor to be awarded at the 2001 City Peoples Awards. She was crowned Best Actress at the award ceremony that previously only recognised politicians and business conglomerates.
In 2003, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) awarded her the Best Actress award and she became the first actor to receive such honour.
At the inaugural Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA) in 2005 Nnaji won the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, becoming the first actress to win the award. Another testament to the fact that she was one of Nollywood’s most notable pioneers.
Genevieve Nnaji, Ramsey Nouah films and relationship
One of the notable memories of the early Nollywood Genevieve Nnaji films are those she acted alongside Ramsey Nouah. And there are many of them to pick from. Such films as Valentino, Power of Love, Love Boat, Butterfly, Honey, My Only Love, Passion & Pain readily come to mind.
Both actors were hailed the Romeo and Juliet of Nollywood. While Ramsey Nouah has been married since 2002, many fans ignored the fact and genuinely believed that the on-screen chemistry they saw between the actor and actress must be real.
However, both of them have debunked the rumours to discourage persistent fans. In 2013, Ramsey Nouah opened up during an interview that while he admitted that Genevieve Nnaji is a good looking woman, their relationship was only professional.
Meanwhile, many will find articles on the internet that claims that Ramsey Nouah and Genevieve Nnaji were in a relationship or dated. However, both of them have time and again refuted the claims and it is best to leave it at that.
Also, in the early peak of Genevieve’s popularity, she also acted in many films with Tony Umez; playing his wife or his girlfriend. Yet, it is the stories about Ramsey Nouah that many seem to prefer flying with.
Nollywood G8 ban
If one is conversant with the Nollywood film trends of the 2000s, one will inevitably notice that the number of films starring Genevieve Nnaji dropped after 2004. In fact, many of the films that were released after 2004 may have been recorded before then.
This was because Genevieve Nnaji was part of the actors and actresses banned by Nollywood film marketers. The decision was referred to as G8 ban and according to Pulse’s Charles Novia, the ban was because the actors demanded huge sums but didn’t deliver as was expected. This ban led to the entrance of many new stars into Nollywood.
Others implicated in the G8 ban were Ramsey Nouah, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Richard Mofe Damijo, Emeka Ike, Nkem Owoh, Stella Damasus and Jim Iyke.
Genevieve Nnaji’s music career
While it seemed like most of the others waited out the Nollywood G8 ban, Genevieve Nnaji made an unexpected move into the music industry. More surprising was the fact that she did not even move into the Nigerian music industry but that of the country’s West African rival, Ghana.
Thus, in 2004, she signed a recording contract with EKB Records, a Ghanaian record label. Under this label, Genevieve dropped many singles that were surprisingly very good and also released her debut album titled “One Logologo Line”.
Watch the video for one of her songs, titled No More, below:
The album contains eight songs and in one of them, she featured VIP. VIP is a very popular Ghanian music group. After this sojourn into the music world, Genevieve returned to the Nollywood scene around 2009.
Genevieve Nnaji Biography: Later career (2009 – present)
Returning to a more advanced Nollywood than the one she had left, it seems Genevieve Nnaji flourished more. It is hard to think that the already popular actress could set new standards in a game she was already arguably leading, but that was what went down.
Before her major return, fans had caught a glimpse of her starring in Mildred Okwo’s 30 days. 30 days had been one of Nollywood’s most revered films and it famously got 8 nominations at the 2008 Africa Movie Academy Awards. Nollywood veteran Joke Silva clinched the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film.
In 2009 Genevieve starred in Silent Scandals, which also stars Majid Michael and Uche Jombo. It was around that time that Oprah Winfrey featured the actress on her show tagged Meet the Most Famous People in the World. While highlighting her career high-points through photos and videos, Winfrey dubbed Genevieve Nnaji the “Julia Roberts of Africa.”
Another successful film project starring Genevieve during this period was Ije: The Journey. Ije: The Journey also stars Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and Clem Ohaneze. It was a widely acclaimed Nollywood film directed by Chineze Ayaene and won many awards including:
- Award of Excellence at the Canada International Film Festival
- The Golden Ace Award at the Las Vegas International Film Festival
- The Silver Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival
- The Melvin van Peebles Award at the San Francisco Black Festival
- The Festival Prize for Best International Student at Swansea Bay Film Festival
Watch the trailer below:
In 2011, Genevieve starred in the Nigerian fantasy adventure drama film titled The Mirror Boy based on a screenplay by Obi Emelonye. The film also stars Osita Iheme. For her acting, Nnaji won the Best Actress award at the Zulu African Film Academy Awards.
Still, on an impressive run, Genevieve Nnaji collaborated with Ramsey Nouah, Ini Edo and Michael Okpara in the 2012 film Weekend Getaway. For this film, she won the Best Actress in a Leading Role award at the Nollywood and African Film Critics Awards (NAFCA) in 2013.
Also, in the 2013 adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s classic, Half of a Yellow Sun, Genevieve Nnaji won the Best Actress in Supporting Role award at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.
She starred in Doctor Bello, a 2013 Nigerian Adventure drama film that was directed by Tony Abulu. Other co-stars are Isaiah Washington, Vivica A. Fox, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Stephanie Okereke, Justus Esiri, Ebbe Bassey and Jon Freda.
The film got her a nomination in the Best Actress in Leading Role category at the 2013 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. But she didn’t win the award.
Genevieve Nnaji as a film producer
In 2015, Genevieve Nnaji tried her hands at something other than acting. She wrote and co-produced the film Road to Yesterday. Ishaya Bako directed this motion picture. The romantic drama stars actors like Oris Erhuero, Majid Michael and comical actress, Chioma ‘Chigul’ Omeruah.
While it got two nominations at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards in 2016, it didn’t win in any of the categories.
Genevieve Nnaji directorial debut
By 2018, Genevieve Nnaji had spent two decades on the screen and she was ready to dabble into film directing.
For her directorial debut, Nnaji released Lionheart, which was highly acclaimed by critics and movie watchers. People were eager to see it and it totally lived up to its hype. Nnaji was able to pull off a remarkable feat.
Watch the trailer here:
Lionheart was Nnaji’s first film as a director and she wrote and also starred in it. Also starring in the film are veteran Nollywood actors like Pete Edochie and Nkem Owoh.
She also handed Peter Okoye (of the defunct PSquare music duo) and rapper Chibuzor Azubuike’s – also known as Phyno – their acting debuts.
Lionheart premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada where Netflix saw it and grabbed it, making Lionheart Netflix’s first original Nollywood film.
The film was also nominated for Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
Later in 2019, the film was submitted by the Nigerian Oscar Commission as the country’s first-ever submission for the Best International Feature Film for 92nd Academy Awards. However, the film was disqualified for not meeting the eligibility criteria because most of the dialogue was shot in the English language.
This decision sparked controversy both in Nigeria and beyond. To read more about how Nigerians reacted to Lionheart’s disqualification at the Oscars Award read:
Lionheart won the Outstanding Foreign Film / World Cinema Motion Picture award at The 19th Black Reel Awards (FAAAF) in 2019.
Netflix acquired Lionheart on 7th September 2018 for $3.8 million. This makes it the first Netflix original film produced in Nigeria.
Did you know that Genevieve Nnaji is a member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR)
Yes, that is correct. In 2011, then President Goodluck Jonathan conferred the honour of the MFR on the beautiful actress. She joins the very select people – such as Stephanie Okereke, Ali Baba, the late Amaka Igwe, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde – in the entertainment industry to have been so honoured.
Genevieve Nnaji scandals
While Genevieve Nnaji lives a relatively quiet life and makes minimal use of her social media accounts, she has been named in several scandals even before the popularity of the internet. Many of the scandals usually involve men although there was never any evidence to support them; just wild allegations and speculations.
Around 2005/2006, stories started to spread that she was involved with Atiku Abubakar, who was then the vice president to President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The stories were that Atiku Abubakar was the one responsible for all her film gigs. Speculations also went around that he bought her houses and cars. In the end, there was no evidence to back up the rumours.
Then, later around 2009, stories also circulated that Genevieve Nnaji was involved with Dapo Oyabanji, popularly called D’Banj. As if to give the rumours some credence, she appeared in the video of his hit song Fall in Love. However, details later emerged that the singer had paid her N2 million to be the video vixen. As is her culture, Genevieve Nnaji did not bother to give the speculations any form of response.
Watch the video for Fall In Love by D’Banj
Genevieve Nanji’s private life
Genevieve Nnaji’s daughter
While many things regarding her private life are not publicly known as she plays her cards close to her chest, it is common knowledge that Genevieve has a daughter. She had given birth to the child allegedly at the age of 17 (that was even before her first Nollywood film).
Her daughter, Theodora Chimebuka Nnaji, got married in 2016 according to reports. Some reports say that Chimebuka Nnaji married Prince Osi Chigozie Ikediwa in her hometown in Mbaise, Imo State. It is also alleged that the couple relocated to Texas in the United States.
Is Genevieve married?
Genevieve Nnaji seems to be single as she herself has never mentioned a husband or a partner. However, there have been rumours about her marrying an unnamed European man in Portugal in 2018. According to Legit, a source close to the Nollywood star had revealed details about the secret wedding.
But there has not been any other mention or evidence of this supposed marriage. We, therefore, conclude that it is likely just speculation. If this were to be true, then her decision to keep the identity of her husband private should be respected.
St. Genevieve clothing line
Charitable acts are seen as a way to give back to society especially when you have built a successful career thanks to it. Genevieve understood this early in her career. That was why, in 2008, Genevieve Nnaji launched a clothing line called St. Genevieve. The clothing business donates its proceeds to charities.
Genevieve re-launched the business in 2014. This time she partnered with Jumia at its star-studded event. The brand is up on the Jumia website.
Genevieve Nnaji Biography: net worth
Despite being one of Nigeria’s top actress and most popular, we do not find any verified information on Genevieve Nnaji’s net worth. There is no information from trusted outlets like Forbes. Some blogs had made some unsubstantiated claims about her net worth. For example, one blog claims she was worth $7.2 million while another says $9.2 million. Each of these claims cannot be verified nor do the blogs explain how they arrived at the figures.
However, we know Genevieve has had a successful career, which has enabled her to earn some revenue besides her acting gigs.
We don’t know how much she made from selling the rights to her film Lionheart to Netflix, which reports allege was in millions of dollars.
Genevieve has also had sponsorship and ambassadorial deals with top brands like Lux, Amstel Malta, Citron Energy Drink, Polo, Make-Up Designory and Etisalat (now known as 9Mobile). But, the values of those deals were not made public. Nor do we know what she did with the money, that is whether she invested profitably or not.
The bottom line is that at this point, we cannot give a figure for the actress’ net worth since the information has not been made public.
Final thoughts …
Genevieve Nnaji has proven time and again and beyond doubt that she is a very talented actress. She consistently displays outstanding performances in most of her projects. We can see the result in the numerous awards and worldwide recognition she has garnered.
Also, her experimentation into writing, producing and directing her own work has not gone unnoticed. In all of these, she remains a respected figure. She rarely ever makes societal comments online and stays away from scandals except for the imaginary ones concocted by idlers.
This woman is a foremost moving force and deserves all the praise she gets.
Bonus Genevieve Nnaji Information
Genevieve Nnaji Awards
- Best Actress at the City People Entertainment Awards in 2001.
- Best Actress in Leading Role at Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2005.
- Best Actress TV Series at Nigeria Entertainment Awards 2010 for Guinness Ultimate Survivor.
- Best Actress-Africa Collaboration at Ghana Movie Awards in 2010 for Silent Scandals.
- Best Kiss (with Majid Michel) for Bursting Out at Best of Nollywood Awards 2011.
- Best Actress at Zulu African Film Academy Awards for The Mirror Boy in 2011.
- Winner of Viewers Choice- Female award at Nollywood Movies Awards 2012.
- Best Actress Leading Role at Nollywood and African Film Critics Awards (NAFCA)for Weekend Getaway in 2013.
- Best Actress in Supporting Role at Nigeria Entertainment Awards 2014 for Half of a Yellow Sun.
- Best Movie West Africa at Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards in 2016 for Road to Yesterday (as a co-producer).
- Outstanding Foreign Film / World Cinema Motion Picture at The 19th Black Reel Awards (FAAAF) in 2019 for Lionheart (as a director).
Genevieve Nnaji Songs
- Ma Bre’Wo featuring Obour
- Thinking of You featuring Kojo Antwi
- Native Doctor featuring Dede
- One Logologo Line featuring V.I.P
- Bump it Up
- No More
- Missing You
Selected Genevieve Nnaji Films
- Ripples (1987)
- Most Wanted (1998)
- Camouflage (1999)
- Love Boat (2001)
- Death Warrant (2001)
- Valentino (2002)
- Fire Dancer (2002)
- Sharon Stone (2002)
- Runs! (2002)
- Power of Love (2002)
- Formidable Force (2002)
- Battle Line (2002)
- Above Death: In God We Trust (2003)
- Blood Sister (2003)
- Break Up (2003)
- Butterfly (2003)
- By His Grace (2003)
- Church Business (2003)
- Deadly Mistake (2003)
- Emergency Wedding (2003)
- Emotional Tears (2003)
- For Better for Worse (2003)
- Honey (2003)
- Jealous Lovers (2003)
- Keeping Faith: Is That Love? (2003)
- Last Weekend (2003)
- Late Marriage (2003)
- Love Anita (2003)
- My Only Love (2003)
- Not Man Enough (2003)
- Passion & Pain (2003)
- Passions (2003)
- Player: Mr Lover Man (2003)
- Private Sin (2003)
- Sharon Stone in Abuja (2003)
- Super Love (2003)
- The Chosen One (2003)
- Women Affair (2003)
- Bumper to Bumper (2004)
- Critical Decision (2004)
- Dangerous Sister(2004)
- Goodbye New York (2004)
- He Lives in Me (2004)
- Into Temptation (2004)
- My First Love (2004)
- Never Die for Love (2004)
- Promise Me Forever (2004)
- Stand by Me (2004)
- Treasure (2004)
- Unbreakable (2004)
- We Are One (2004)
- Darkest Night (2005)
- Games Women Play (2005)
- Rip-Off (2005)
- Girls Cot (2006)
- 30 Days (2006)
- Letters to a Stranger (2007)
- Keep My Will (2007)
- Warrior’s Heart (2007)
- Unfinished Business (2007)
- Winds of Glory (2007)
- Beautiful Soul (2008)
- Broken Tears (2008)
- Critical Condition (2008)
- River of Tears (2008)
- My Idol (2008)
- Love My Way (2008)
- Silent Scandals (2009)
- Felicima (2009)
- Ijé: The Journey (2010)
- Tango with me (2010)
- Bursting Out (2010)
- Mirror Boy (2010)
- Sacred Lies (2011)
- Weekend Getaway (2012)
- Half of a Yellow Sun (2013)
- Doctor Bello (2013)
- Road to Yesterday (2015)
- Lionheart (2018)
- Farming (2018)