Jim Iyke Biography: Early life, film career, net worth, relationships, controversies & more

Jim Iyke is a Gabonese-born Nigerian actor who has been starring in films since the turn of the millennium. There can be no early Nollywood conversation without the mention of this legendary actor. He was popular for his diversity in playing typical ‘bad boy’ roles as well as ‘lover boy’ characters so well. His ability to adapt to roles in films endeared him to fans of Nigerian films in the early days.

While the actor has been appearing in films since 2001, he has also dabbled into the world of music-making. We will give more details about this in the full biography of Jim Iyke. However, first, you can see a summary of important facts about Jim Iyke in the next section.

10 facts about Jim Iyke

1. Jim Iyke was born as James Ikechukwu Esomugha in Libreville, Gabon, on 25th September 1976. He will be 44 years old on his 2020 birthday.

2. Jim Iyke is an Igbo man from Anambra State and his acting name is just a stylish way of shortening James and Ikechukwu.

3. The actor obtained a diploma in Banking and Finance from the University of Jos, Plateau State. He also got a B.Sc. in Philosophy from the same institution.

4. Iyke appeared in his first Nigerian film in 2001 and has starred in more than 150 films since then.

5. The actor was among the list of Nollywood stars banned by producers under the popular G8 ban.

6. He holds a black belt in taekwondo.

7. Jim Iyke is not married but has a girlfriend named Dana Kinduryte. The couple has two sons, Harvis and JJ.

8. He runs a foundation that is dedicated to catering for children with special disabilities.

9. Iyke founded a record label in 2007 named Untamed Records and he has released one album under the company’s name.

10. Besides owning a film production company, Jim Iyke also has a water bottling company as well as investments in real estates.

Also read: Ini Edo Biography: Early Life, career, awards, marriage, net worth & more

Jim Iyke Biography: Early life and education

Jim Iyke’s full name is James Ikechukwu Esomugha and he was born in Libreville, Gabon, on 25th September 1976 to Nigerian parents. His parents’ name was originally His father’s name was Stephen Okolue before he changed the family’s name to Esomugha. We could not find much detail on why his father changed his last name. But from many other sources, we verified that Jim Iyke’s father is from Anambra State and is a native of Enugu Agidi, a town in Njikoka Local Government Area.

Iyke is a stylish way of shortening the Igbo name, Ikechukwu, and Jim is a commonly accepted short form of James. Thus, this is how the actor, Jim Iyke came about his acting name.

Although he was born in Gabon, much of his growing up was in Nigeria. He revealed in an interview that he has six sisters and grew up with female cousins and his aunts. While we do not have a particular date, the actor and his family returned to Nigeria while he was still very young; likely when he was in his tweens or early teens. Following the family’s return to Nigeria, Jim Iyke was enrolled at the Federal Government College, Kwali, Abuja.

Then he went on to acquire a diploma in Banking and Finance from the University of Jos, Plateau State. He also obtained a B.Sc. in Philosophy from the institution.


Jim Iyke Biography: Early acting career

Many other sources confirm that Jim Iyke made his debut on the Nollywood scene in 2001. However, the earliest record of a project that the actor starred in was the 2002 film titled $1: One Dollar. The film also has Patience Ozokwor, Victor Osuagwu and Bob-Manuel Udokwu on the list of casts.

The next year, he was on many other films playing different characters with ease and executing his roles to perfection. He was starring alongside Hanks Anuku, Sola Sobowale, Rita Dominic, Rachel Oniga, Laide Bakare, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Stella Damascus and many other popular Nollywood names.

Here is a YouTube video of an early 2000s film that Jim Iyke starred in alongside Rita Dominic.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij5T2KXnkYY[/embedyt]

He has a large catalogue of films that by 2010 he had already featured in over 100 films in Nigeria. He had also carved a niche for himself as the ‘bad boy’ of Nollywood, notorious for leaving women heartbroken. He also played other roles wonderfully and was one of the go-to guys for thriller films.

Another reason why Jim Iyke was a standout actor was that he has a black belt in taekwondo. This made his action scenes in certain films a joy to watch. However, it was not always rosy for him. In 2004, Jim Iyke was among the eight Nollywood actors that were banned in what is now famously regarded as the Nollywood G8 ban. Here is what really happened.

Nollywood G8 ban

Jim Iyke along with other seven Nollywood stars namely Genevieve Nnaji, Ramsey Nouah, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Richard Mofe Damijo, Emeka Ike, Nkem Owoh and Stella Damasus were, in 2004, banned from featuring in films by Nollywood film producers. While many have varying takes on whether it was a fair decision or not, we just look at why the ban was put in place.

The banned actors were allegedly choosing to feature in films that market distributors were in charge of; instead of working with independent producers. The reason behind this was that the marketers were more willing to readily part with money than producers. In fact, Charles Novia in his book Nollywood till November: Memoirs of a Nollywood Insider, writes:

“They felt shooting with marketers guaranteed them steady jobs compared to independents like us, who they felt added no value to their career. Indiscipline from the actors had a demoralizing effect on general production. Even the marketers who created these monsters were affected.”

It was also claimed that the actors were demanding a huge amount to appear in films even though they don’t always deliver.

While the ban was meant to last for one year, it has been credited for paving the way for new actors in the industry. Also, it was during this period that Jim Iyke tried his talent at making music. He was not alone in that decision as Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde also pursued music for some time during this period.

Untamed Productions

Following the ban, in 2007, Jim Iyke started his own film production company that he calls Untamed Productions. According to a blog named after the actor, Untamed Productions has produced films like Perfect Choice, Ebony, Good Evening, Shades of White and 2 Dollaz. In addition to producing films, the production house also organises fundraising forums and programs for a foundation which the actor founded.

Jim Iyke Biography: Recent films

Since Nollywood has taken a new turn and opened up opportunities for new faces in the industry, many actors from the early days have struggled to fit in. This is because the industry they were accustomed to became different before their eyes. However, Jim Iyke has continued to appear in films in recent years. He is among the few popular faces from the early days of Nollywood that still features in films today.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbnNSx2DL3c[/embedyt]

In 2012, Jim Iyke featured in the award-winning film, Last Flight to Abuja. Two years later in 2014, he returned to the screen for the romantic comedy, When Love Comes Around, which was directed by Afe Olumowe. He went on a brief hiatus before he made an appearance in the 2017 film, American Driver, directed by Moses Inwang. American Driver was a comedy film and it proved to critics that Iyke can successfully play any character he needed to play in a film.

He has moved on from the stereotyped ‘bad boy turned romantic’ actor of his early days to one of Nollywood’s most versatile actors. Jim Iyke again appeared in both instalments of the popular Merry Men franchise, which also starred AY Makun, Ramsey Nouah, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Ireti Doyle and Falz.

Jim Iyke Biography: music career

James Ikechukwu Esomugha, who is popularly known as Jim Iyke, also started a music record label called Untamed Records in 2007. He released an album under his record label titled “Who Am I?”. The album houses 15 tracks. Jim Iyke featured popular Nigerian artistes like Slow Dogg, Tuface Idibia and Sound Sultan on some of the songs.

Jim Iyke used the stage name JI for his music. However, not much has been heard concerning Jim Iyke’s record label since he released his debut album. The record label is also in charge of music scores and soundtracks for Untamed Productions’ films.

Watch the video of his track, Who Am I? with 2Face here:

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hLpQhAJgTg[/embedyt]

Jim Iyke Biography: Personal life

In 2015, Jim Iyke had a son with Dana Kinduryte in Atlanta USA. Jim Iyke’s son, whose name is Harvis Chidubem Iyke, will be about five years old by now. While Iyke and Kinduryte have been together for long, they are not legally married as of the time of writing this article in early June 2020. The actor had lost his mother almost a year before his son was born. He mentioned that period as a truly trying time for him as he was very close to his mother.

Jim Iyke welcomed his second son in April 2019. He announced his birth via Instagram and revealed his name as JJ, presumable the initials of the newborn’s names.


You may also like: Jim Iyke shares heartwarming experience with his younger son

Although it is not confirmed if Jim Iyke had the second child with Dana Kinduryte, a Nairaland article claims that she is the mother of JJ.

Before he started having children and what seems like a stable relationship with Kinduryte, Jim Iyke had his fair share of controversies with women and people in general. Let us see some of the most popular ones.

Jim Iyke’s Controversies

Jim Iyke seems to have a knack for landing himself in controversies as you can see from the following sections. Whether they were actual scandals or just the people making mountains out of molehills given the personality of the actor is something you will have to decide for yourself.

Jim Iyke controversies with women

One of the earliest controversies that Jim Iyke was involved in was when a woman named Ruth Okoro accused him of trying to use her to get an American green card. The controversy was made even more popular because Ruth Okoro was the former wife of Ini Edo’s ex-husband, Philip Ehiagwina.

Read: Ini Edo Biography: Early Life, career, awards, marriage, net worth & more

Another time that the actor was in the news was after his public messy break up with Keturah Hamilton, a Jamaican actress. What made the couple’s break up a public spectacle was because they had made their relationship public. In fact, Iyke had been quoted as stating that he had met the woman of his dreams and planned to stay with her. The relationship lasted about five years from 2009 to 2014.

Not long after he and Hamilton went their separate ways, the actor was involved with stunning Ghanaian actress, Nadia Buari. Again, they flaunted their relationship in the open and gave fans the vibe that they would end up on the altar.

Their romance only lasted for some months before Jim Iyke abandoned the relationship again. However, many reports claim that the actress had fallen for another man and married him, leaving Nollywood’s ‘bad boy’ actor in the lurch.

There was another rumour that he had impregnated the daughter of an unnamed wealthy man in Lagos. It turned out that Jim Iyke was not responsible for the pregnancy but the woman had insisted that they had been involved in a romantic relationship.

Jim Iyke fraud controversy

In 2011, Jim Iyke was implicated in a NGN15 million fraud case with a certain Hajiya Habiba Abubakar. The case went to court and led to bad publicity for the actor. But in July 2012, the parties appeared to have resolved their differences; despite it still involving further confusion. This was because while Iyke claimed that he agreed to settle out of court based on the advice of his lawyer, Abubakar claimed that the actor had pleaded and agreed to pay back the money in instalments.

Jim Iyke TB Joshua controversy

Another popular scandal involving the actor was when a video of him went viral online in 2017. The video showed the actor ostensibly being delivered from demons that allegedly took possession of him. This event took place at Prophet TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations, in Lagos. The demons that were said to have possessed the actor even claimed responsibility for his inability to get married before and were purportedly cast out. The video naturally raised ruckus online as many claimed that Jim Iyke and Prophet TB Joshua had planned it.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-7dMRbDHbA[/embedyt]

Iyke had initially defended the viral video before he turned around some months later to say he had not been happy about the deliverance session. He claimed he had gone to the church because of his late mother and that TB Joshua took advantage of him.

Jim Iyke Dana Airlines controversy

In 2018, Jim Iyke had a skirmish with the police after he was arrested for allegedly hitting a staff of Dana Airlines over a disagreement. He later apologised publicly to the company.

Jim Iyke Mr Taxi controversy

Also in 2018, Jim Iyke announced that he has launched a transportation business using the model of Uber and Taxify. The business called Mr Taxi was to operate in the South-East states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.

Not long after he made the announcement, one Mr Austin Nnaemeka, the chief operating officer of the company came forward to state that the actor was not the owner Mr Taxi. According to Nnaemeka, the actor was only contracted as a brand ambassador for the company and that the company has relieved him of his duties following his antics.

Jim Iyke Biography: Net worth

Despite his many antics behind the screen, Jim Iyke is one of Nollywood’s most famous actors. He has many devoted fans who seem endeared to him because of his perceived ‘macho like’ attitude. This makes him a well-paid actor as many want to see him acting out their fantasies on the screen. Many online magazines and blogs rank him among the top ten or even five highest-paid actors in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the figures that these sources quote as Jim Iyke net worth cannot be trusted. This is because they do not provide proof of how they came about the figures. While we do not have a specific value for what Jim Iyke’s net worth is, we will give details about his businesses and other sources of income.

Jim Iyke has so many businesses that calling him “Jack of all trades” would not be wrong. Besides the film and music companies he founded as already mentioned, the veteran actor also has a car business named Untamed Cars and a clothing business, which is known as Space Boutique. In addition to this, he invests in real estate and the oil and gas industry as well. That’s not all, the actor also owns a water production company in Abuja called Burgeon Global and in 2017, he started a construction company.

Jim Iyke was also a former brand ambassador for Globacom and had dealings with Oceanic Bank, which was acquired by Ecobank.

Thus, the speculations surrounding the actor’s wealth may be well-founded. Whatever the value is, he is not doing badly from all appearances.


Jim Iyke’s philanthropy

The actor is not just interested in making money as his philanthropic activities show. He runs the Jim Iyke Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO). The foundation is focused on taking care of less-privileged and disabled children in Africa as a whole.

It has organised many programmes in Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria to help people. Jim Iyke Foundation has partnered with reputable companies like Pepsi, Nicon Hilton Hotel and Indomie Noodles. It organised the 6,000 children walk against poverty and child illiteracy in Nigeria on 24th September 2009.

Final thoughts …

One fact that anyone who reads this biography about Jim Iyke will notice is that the actor is much more than he appears to be on the surface. He is by far a more of a complicated person than the ‘bad guy’ character that he played in films while making a name for himself.

The father of two is also a serial investor that owns many businesses as the section addressing his net worth revealed. Jim Iyke has had more than his fair share of controversies during his lifetime. While he is not yet married, he currently seems to be enjoying a stable relationship with the mother of his children.

Bonus Jim Iyke Information

List of selected Jim Iyke films

1. $1: One Dollar (2002)
2. Extreme Measure (2003)
3. Jealous Lovers (2003)
4. A Night to Remember (2003)
5. Lost Passion (2003)
6. Love You Forever (2003)
7. My Sweet Heart (2003)
8. Rescue (2003)
9. The Intruder (2003)
10. Blind Love (2003)
11. The One I Trust (2003)
12. Unforgetable (2003)
13. Deep Loss (2004)
14. Life in New York (2004)
15. Love & Pride (2004)
16. Love & Pride 2 (2004)
17. Love from Above (2004)
18. Love from Above 2 (2004)
19. Love Temple (2004)
20. Millionaire’s Daughter (2004)
21. Millionaire’s Daughter 2 (2004)
22. Promise & Fail (2004)
23. Promise & Fail 2 (2004)
24. Promise Me Forever (2004)
25. Cry Like Rivers (2004)
26. Ready to Die (2004)
27. Ready to Die 2 (2004)
28. Royal Family (2004)
29. Deadly Kiss (2004)
30. Shattered Illusion (2004)
31. Live in New York (2004)
32. Beyond Passion (2005)
33. Beyond Passion 2 (2005)
34. Diamond Forever (2005)
35. Under Arrest (2005)
36. Guys on the Line (2005)
37. Unexpected Mission (2005)
38. Otelemuye (2005)
39. Fatal Seduction (2006)
40. Ultimate Risk (2006)
41. Games Men Play (2006)
42. Show Me Heaven (2007)
43. Bad Blood (2008)
44. Beyonce & Rihanna (2008)
45. Eyes of the Nun (2009)
46. Between Kings and Queens (2010)
47. Last Flight to Abuja (2012)
48. When Love Comes Around (2014)
49. American Driver (2017)
50. Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons (2018)

Jim Iyke songs

Who Am I? tracklist (2009)

1. Intro
2. Jim Iykemania Feat. Sound Sultan
3. Ikenna Feat. Slow Dogg
4. Born To Do This Feat. Mike Word
5. Who Am I Feat. Tuface Idibia
6. Tou Mafa Feat. Slow Dogg
7. Bad Boys Don’t Kiss & Tell
8. Pointing Feat. Yinka Davies & Nii
9. Too High Feat. Rv
10. Truth Or Dare
11. Cry Feat. Joju
12. Too High Feat. Rv
13. Who Am I (instrumental)
14. Ikenna (Instrumental)
15. Intro (Instrumental)

Jim Iyke awards

1. Three-time winner of the Teenage Choice Award
2. Sexiest Man in Nigeria (2008)
3. Best actor at the Africa Entertainment Award, New York (2009)
4. Mode Men Magazine Award for Best Actor (2010)
5. Screen Nation Award for Best Actor of the decade (2012)
6. Best Actor at the Golden Icons Academy Movie Awards (GIAMA) (2015)
7. Festival Prize at The People’s Film Festival, New York (2017)
8. Most Popular Actor by NET Honours (2019)

Photo of author

About The Author


Obinna is a fiction writer from Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up loving comic book characters and superheroes. He watches lots of action films and writes entertainment and technology articles. He is also interested in science and how things work.

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