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In honour of Nollywood ‘queen mothers’

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Rachel Oniga

Today, the follow-spot light is on these amazons, women of considerable stature who have carved a niche for themselves and who are doing excellently well in their chosen careers. Out of a long list of pretty and ageless queens in Nollywood, we have selected these amazons who have, through dint of hard work and consistency, emerged as unofficial Queen Mothers of the Nigerian film industry, and ‘acting Aunties’ or if you like, role models to so many young practitioners. Guess what? Just like the roles they play on screen, they are all mothers and grandmothers in real life.

Liz Benson-Amaye
IF anyone will be crowned first as the queen mother of Nollywood, it will be Elizabeth Benson-Amaye aka Liz Benson. The veteran actress and star of Stephanie Idahosa’s Dry, who is now well married to an evangelist Bishop Great Amaye, is one actress who has continued to live roles at ease whether on stage, television, home video, or even on Radio.

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Reputed to be one of Nigeria’s finest actresses, acting for Liz-Benson has resulted almost effortlessly into stardom. A product of the dramatic arts department of the Havana State University in Georgia, the humble, charming, and amiable actress of innumerable stage and screen credits, began her acting career on television and was engaged by the television and producer Lola Fani Kayode to feature in a number of television and radio commercials.

From television, she moved to the stage where she became a regular feature in most stage productions performed by the Chuck Mike led Collective Artiste at the National Theatre. From the stage, Liz found time to do some more acting on television. The big act that shot her to limelight was her delightful interpretation of the role of Mrs. Agnes Johnson, in the long rested television soap on the network service of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) titled Fortunes.

From television, Liz moved to the home video turf and became an instant celebrity after her role as Jane in the two-part movie by Kenneth Nnebue Glamour Girls. She has since then featured in countless movie productions including Circle of Doom, Back to Life, and Last Warning.

Rachel Oniga


Rachel Oniga
VETERAN actress Rachel Oniga is clearly one of the queen mothers of Nollywood. A mother and grandmother who is not new to acting, Oniga’s strength as an actress in Nollywood is in her ability to act both in Yoruba and English language movies. In fact, she is described freely as a cross over actress.

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That multi-lingual acting ability has served her well as an actress; she has on that account done more movies than she can even recollect. That’s why it was an uphill task getting her to say how many movies she has done since she stepped unto the movie turf a little over two decades ago. Till date, the native of Eku in Delta State and star of hit movies like Taking Me to Mama, Onome, Owo Blow, My Mothers Pregnancy, Big Time Chick, Kada River, and Lady in the Forest, has won several awards, including the Best Yoruba actress by the organisers of the THEMA awards in 1998 has found her arrival as a top-rated actress hard to believe.

Ngozi Ezeonu
PRETTY and ageless Ngozi Ezeonu is undeniably a queen mother of the screen. A native of Ogbunike in Oyi Local Council of Anambra State, who is born of an average family, the veteran actress hit a nerve when she spared up other recognisable home movie actors and actresses to give life to that Ken Nnebue celebrated two-part movie of the 90’s Glamour Girls. That appearance provided the breakthrough and opened the floodgate for the fair-skinned actress who trained as a journalist at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.

Today, Ngozi has almost lost count of her movie appearances. The movies that have benefitted from her expert portrayal of roles include Forbidden, Glamour Girls, the two-part movie Nneka the Pretty Serpent, Destroyer, The Billionaire, and Messiah. Indeed, acting has made Ngozi popular. People cheer at her on the streets, in the market…wherever. The proud daughter of Ogbunike who sambas well on and off the screen, admits too that it has opened doors for her

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Esther Idowu-Phillips
CLEARLY a veteran actress of the screen and stage Esther Idowu Phillips aka Iya Rainbow or Mrs. Fabulous, her famous refrain, hails from Odogbolu in Ogun State. A trained nurse, the widow who was married to the late actor Femi Phillips Oroniyi, had her debut on stage. It was from the stage that the mother of five children moved to television and then home movies. The first set of movies the elderly actress featured in include Aje Ni Iya Mi and Eru, and Asiri Nla by Jide Kosoko, which she as she agreed brought her to limelight. She has since moved on to feature in about 500 movies including television commercials

Lanre Hassan-Adeshina aka Mama Awero
A FELLOW of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Lanre Hassan-Adeshina, aka Mama Awero, is a natural talent and a gifted actress whose passion for acting is glaringly boundless. Those who have followed what is widely considered to be her proliferate career as an actress – a career that has spanned five decades now – say the acclaimed quality and skillful theatre amazon should be celebrated for her dexterity on the acting turf.

A native of Lagos State, Mama Awero’s professional career commenced five decades ago as a pioneer member of Young Stars Concert Party, a theatre company that later transformed into Ojo Ladipo Group. It was as a member of the Ojo Ladipo group that Mama Awero’s love for acting became immense. When the legendary Ojo Ladipo died, the Ojo Ladipo Group was renamed Awada Kerikeri Organization (AKO) and Mama Awero stayed on and performed on stage and screen leaving positive impressions after impressions. Mama Awero has not looked back since then and she has not done anything else apart from featuring in movies, television, and stage productions.

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Patience Ozokwo

BORN in Ngwo in present Enugu State (but brought up in Lagos), the elderly actress Patience Ozokwo originally trained as a teacher at the Women Teachers Training College (WTTC) Afikpo. She left WTTC Afikpo, taught for some time but she soon jettisoned the teaching job when she could no longer suppress the muse she had developed for broadcasting.

She joined Radio Nigeria first as an announcer and much later she rose to the rank of producer in charge of women and youth programmes. Though she was later retrenched, Mama Gee, as Ozokwo is simply called, was not dejected. She got herself together and took to freelancing-‘doing voice-over, producing jingles and all that’. In between, she decided on a career in acting and went into its a full hug.

Today Ozokwo star of Aguba and other hit flicks who says she has lost count of the number of movies she has done, has this one liner as a reply to anyone who wants to know how far it has been on the turf: ‘To God Be The Glory.’

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