From the 80's till half-way through the 90's, nearly every household in Africa watched Western and Asian movies, but with the arrival of Nollywood in the early 90's and the rising profile of some of Nollywood stars in the late 90's, everything changed. Nollywood has become the talk of the day amongst African youths and many across the seven continents. As Nollywood's status rises so does that of its actresses. Thanks to the industry, they have hit it big with endorsements, modelling, adverts and the likes, hence their being branded 'big bucks' divas.
Kate Henshaw-Nuttall (N67 million)
Humble and hardworking, she is what one may call the silent millionaire. She became one of the actresses to try out other ventures. Spared by the tabloids' bashing, the African Movie Academy 2008 Best Actress winner has graced the screen of Nigerian television like an amazon. The screen star who also has an 8-year old daughter, Gabrielle, is a business woman to the core. Although she often appears classy, she spends wisely on what she wears and only travels abroad for business rather than pleasure. She does not drive very expensive cars and she lives a purely average and normal life. The Cross River-born star has her own company which specialises in different businesses but with blas in real estate. She currently has three buildings and several landed properties scattered all over the country. By 2006 she had earned N10 million and the following year, she reached N12 million. She has never looked back since then. The warm and beautiful star is also a model, presently a Glo Ambassador and face of Onga (brand from Promasidor) and has since earned a whopping N20 million between 2008 and 2010. Plans are also underway for her to commence the production of her own movies.
Genevieve Nnaji (N64 million)
An icon in her own world, a screen goddess and the queen of Nollywood, many describe her as an industry of her own. The Best AMAA Actress in a Leading Role in 2005, Genevieve Nnaji is arguably the most popular actress in the Nigerian make-believe movie industry called Nollywood. She has over 10,000 registered fans on her website genevievennaji.ning.com and receives about 3,000 letters from fans all over the world every week. In September 2009 American mega television talk show host Oprah Winfrey named her one of the 100 most famous people in the world. She is also by far the highest paid actress per movie and the first to earn a million naira in a single movie. By 2009 she raised the bar and she was paid $25,000 in the block buster international hit movie IJE produced by Chineze Anyaene. A model and also a singer, in 2004 she became the Face of Lux and subsequently was involved with Pronto beverage and omo detergent.
The following year she released her debut album Longolongo in Ghana, which saw her prove her versatile talents to her adoring fans all over the world. Between 2004 and 2006 she earned a whooping of N31.3 million. Major part of the money N14.7 million came from her two-year deal with Lux ($100,000). With no great interest in real estate she decided to dive into the fashion industry. She launched her clothing line St. Genevieve in 2008 which is presently being managed by fashion icon Zizi Cardow. St.Genevieve is reportedly worth N20 million. There is no doubt that she would have been topping this list with a great margin if she eventually got the Glo deal. She became the first to be contacted by Globacom, but she demanded N50 million while globacom wanted to sign her on for N30 million. She's reported to have tried later to salvage the deal, but she had already lost it.
The event also saw her sack her manager of 3 years. Unknown to her, Glo had already decided to involve other Nollywood actresses before contacting her. Rather than stopping after the loss of the Glo deal, the star decided to step it up and show her fans the daring side of hers. 2010 has seen her feature in some of the best movies ever seen in Nollywood and that includes Ije, Bursting Out, Mirror Boy and Tango With Me. 2010 has also seen her become the face of MUD cosmetics. She also appeared in the video of D Bbanj's hit song Fall In Love.
Ini Edo (N60 million)
She has remained very consistent and has proved time and time again that she was born to be a star. Ini believes in landed and housing properties and has invested in this area more than any other Nollywood sister. She has five buildings to her credit and another one to be completed by the end of the year. Most of the buildings are being rented to tenants. The actress, model and producer presently has nine landed properties which she either plans to build upon, fence for keeps or lease. Five of the landed properties are in Ikotun and Ikorodu areas of Lagos State and the rest in her home state. By 2007 she had earned N15.7 million from movies and her businesses.
She has just produced her latest flick Memories Of The Heart which will be premiered in the United States. She is part of the Glo pride pack and is also part of the project to move Nollywood to another level. She is fully involved with Nollywood USA led by J. J. Bunny and has featured in the latest film by Nollywood USA titled This Is Houston.
Rita Dominic (N58 million)
She is the best-dressed actress" according to Nollywood insiders and fans. In 2004 she won the City Peoples Award as the Most Outstanding Actress. The face of Nokia and the Glo ambassador is also a business woman. Rita has done well both as an actress and a model. Her assets include landed properties and two homes estimated to be worth over N40 million. Between 2008 and 2009, she earned N16million (most of it part of the money coming from Nokia and Glo.) She is about to launch a book and produce her own films.
Mercy Johnson (N55 million)
When many argued whether there would be another star like Genevieve, along came the fierce and hot Mercy Johnson. At the moment she remains the most controversial actress in Nollywood. The movie, The Maid, was not enough to woo Nollywood fans to her, but 19 Mackaulay Street revealed her to be the latest Nollywood revelation. Since then she has never looked back. Many argue that the tens of movie scripts that come her way are due to the fact that she's is not a glo ambassador, but the actresses does not see it that way.
In the past three years she appeared in more movies than any other Nollywood actress. By 2008 Mercy Johnson had appeared in fifteen movies and earned N11.4 million from movies alone. The following year, she earned N13 million and she featured in the Emen Isong hit movie Guilty Pleasures. She is also an investor in properties and she is about to complete two houses at the moment. She also owns about six landed properties in lagos.
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (N53 million)
She is the darling and princess of Nollywood, bold and a beauty to behold. Many believe she shares the same status with Genevieve Nnaji and together they are the two biggest actresses in Nollywood. Omotola is not your impression of an everyday business woman but what you may call a seasonal investor in whatever she develops a passion for. Although she has not featured in many movies recently, she has always proved that she is always at her best in any movie she acts in. In 2007 she grossed N9 million. Omotola takes it easy with her life and also has great passin for cars. She drives more expensive cars than any actress in Nollywood and her garage is estimated to be worth N20 million. The mother, model and musician has recently stepped up her game in the music industry.
Her first album Gba was her first introduction to the music industry but her sophomore album Me, Myself & Eyes has defined her as truly talented. The production and promotion of her album cost her a whopping N13 million.
Patience Ozokwor (N51 million)
The Enugu star is nicknamed "Mama G' in Nollywood. She is the oldest on the list and is notable for her tough roles in movies. 'Mama G' who is also a musician has been consistent in the industry and her roles have been raw energy. She is very diverse in her investments but also has several landed properties. She also started business very early.
Uche Jombo (N50 million)
Nollywood insiders, stake holders and fans all agree that this has been Uche Jombo's year, one in which she has razzled and dazzled many with her acting in several movies this year. The year 2010 has seen her dominate the headlines more than any other actor or actress in Nollywood. The media pictures her everywhere (although in a positive light) and she has enjoyed media hype like Genevieve Nnaji (2005) and Mercy Johnson (between 2008 and 2009). In 2008, she pocketed N10 million for her slick performances in several movies. Uche started to prove her talent in the industry when she co-wrote the block buster movie Games Men Play with veteran female producer Emen Isong in 2005. In 2009/2010 which appears to be her biggest year in the industry, she featured in the Nollywood USA movie by J. J. Bunny Rebound followed by her own very work and master piece, one that has set Nollywood on fire, which is currently being premiered in the United States.
The Glo ambassador and model, who earned more than N11 million in 2009, seems unstoppable at the moment. The year 2011/2012 could see her top this list, since some of her movies are not yet released and the ones being shown in cinemas are still enjoying sold out status across the continent. Uche is also among the stars involved in the ongoing Nollywood 'Rebirth' that raises the quality of Nollywood movies via the Emem Isong Royal Arts Academy and J. J. Bunny's Nollywood USA. Uche could also be the first mega actress turned producer in Nollywood if feeters and her body language are anything to go by.
Monalisa Chinda (N50 million)
Also involved in the Royal Arts Academy mission, the beautiful actress from Rivers State has done well for herself after more than ten years in the industry. Between 2004 and 2008 Monalisa Chinda earned about N25 million. The actress and producer is about to release her movie which is already in its final stages. She also owns landed properties in choice locations in both Rivers State and Lagos.
Chioma Chukwuka (N46 million)
The absolutely scandal-free actress in Nollywood has featured in about 70 movies and has raked in millions for herself and family. The Oraifite, Anambra State-born star was voted the African Movie Academy Awards' Best Actress 2007. She earned N8 million from movies in 2007 and since then she has been climbing higher and higher. In 2008, she also earned a whopping N9 million. She owns two houses and various properties in Lagos and her home state.