“It’s a man’s world,” so the saying goes. But this is not the case in the Nigerian film industry, also known as Nollywood, where more actresses are now calling the shots and living in opulence, while their male counterparts play second fiddle
Chika Ike is not your A-List class actress. She has not won any award or released any blockbuster. But in the last few months, the actress has featured prominently in celebrity magazines and gossip blogs because of her rising profile in the movie industry. Indeed the actress could be said to be on cloud nine as news around her private life has been close to that of a Hollywood fairy tale lifestyle.
With her array of luxury cars parked in her garage, a recent buzz over claim of N5 million cheque being paid to her to shave off her hair for a role in an upcoming movie, and the recent reports of her new multi-million naira home in upscale Lekki in Lagos last week, 28-year old Chika could be said to be living large.
The house, P.M.NEWS Entertainment Cafe learnt, has a swimming pool, gym room, private office, car port, garden, massive walk-in closet and a state-of-the-art interior.
Chika’s new status as a landlady in that posh area was achieved not too long after her colleague in the movie industry, star actress Genevieve Nnaji, excited her parents by relocating them from their home in Egbeda, a Lagos suburb, to a new building in the same upscale Lekki. Her aged parents are in their late 60s and 70s respectively. Her siblings also benefited from her large heart.
It was learnt that Genevieve had in recent time found it challenging to check on her parents due to the distance between them. Besides, she felt her dad who could hardly walk due to old age needed to be closer to her to receive adequate medical care.
Genevieve, 34, who presently resides in another upscale Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, remains one of the richest in her trade. She’s mostly chauffeured in various expensive automobiles but has preference for a Toyota Landcruiser with a plain-cloth policeman always on her entourage as escort.
In early May, Mercy Johnson and her husband, Prince Odinosein Okojie, moved from their Omole Estate home to a new lush house at Thomas Estate in Lekki, Lagos. The actress, who recently had a baby girl in the United States, hosted some friends and family to a house-warming cum child dedication party at the new mansion that befits the star she is.
It is not only English-speaking movie Nollywood actresses who are living life to the fullest in Lekki and Ikoyi axis of Lagos. Some Yoruba-speaking actresses are fast joining the train. After her lavish wedding last year, popular Yoruba actress and producer, Funke Akindele, and her husband, Kenny Oloyede, decided to reside in Lekki.
Apart from her movies grossing millions of naira both at the box office and DVD sales, Funke is also brands’ sweetheart. With a rich portfolio of top brands including Globacom, Klin, Jobberman, and recently Vitafoam, choosing her as their ambassador, Funke, popularly known as ‘Jenifa’, has emerged one of the richest actresses both in the English and Yoruba speaking genres of Nollywood. And with this, she can afford to live in opulence.
Funke also now has as neighbour in the highbrow area, fellow actress Toyin Aimakhu. The recently married actress and producer has equally picked one of the estates in Lekki Phase 1 as her abode. Toyin not only moved into the rich neighbourhood, she equally joined the league of actresses who earn extra income aside acting by opening a fashion store in the same Lekki neighbourhood.
A source told P.M.NEWS Entertainment Cafe that Toyin’s new multi-million naira fashion store, TAJ Dresses, stocks various kinds of dresses for all occasions.
Prior to the present paternity mess rocking Laide Bakare’s life, which has forced the actress to relocate to the United States for the delivery of her new baby, the actress also resided in Lekki. She also has her office and studio located within the Peninsula.
P.M.NEWS Entertainment Cafe checks revealed that in spite of the glut being experienced in the Nigerian movie industry, there are at least 50 actresses either owning their buildings or paying huge rents for apartments in many of the posh estates across Lekki, VGC and Ajah axis, and in Ikoyi.
Other actresses who live in these upscale areas include beautiful Monalisa Chinda, who has been living in the area as far back as 2009; Kate Henshaw; Ufuoma Ejenobor; Stephanie Okereke-Linus; Oge Okoye; Uche Jombo; Chelsea Eze and Tonto Dikeh.
While many pundits agreed that the entertainment industry is controlled by the male folk, the female entertainers seem to be the ones favoured by fortunes as they smile more to the bank, live a life of luxury, drive fast cars and Sport Utility Vehicles. And some of them who were lucky to have partners, had fabulous weddings. To many of their male folks, this wide gulf in terms of swimming in wealth and luxury has provoked worries. “The reason for the disparity is not far-fetched. It is a common belief that most Nigerian actresses don’t live on what they earn from acting as that alone could not sustain the high standard of living they project to their fans. It is also evident that most of these actresses engage in ‘runs’ (other quick ways of making money) to augment the meagre funds they earn from movies,” said a female entertainment journalist who wants to remain anonymous.
She added: “Many of them cannot command a fee of N500,000, yet they cruise around in expensive luxury cars way beyond their means, dress to kill in designer wears and live in posh areas. Their lifestyle contrasts sharply with the output of their creative works.”
Adeyemi Oladeinde, movie journalist and critic, said naturally it is easier for ladies generally to make it because they have things easier, including in the movie industry.
“It is a known fact that many of the marketers prefer to ‘help’ the actresses. The reason so many of them, especially in the Yoruba genre are becoming producers. If you are not a popular actor, you might not get such opportunity and so you continue to move round in circles while your female counterparts progress,” Oladeinde told P.M.NEWS Entertainment Cafe.
He continued: “Many of the rich men around also prefer to associate financially with females, especially if you are single and beautiful. How many rich women would do that for a single male? All the indices favour actresses to the detriment of their male folks.”
Gbenga Bada of Movie Moments, an online portal, said from the inception of what is now known as Nollywood, female players have consistently fared better than their male colleagues.
“The females have shone brightly as a result of their beauty attributes. This has endeared them to moneybags who want to be associated with them. The proceeds they get with their earnings are used by some to establish businesses such as fashion stores, wine bars, supermarkets and other ventures,” Bada noted.
Popular movie actor, Leo Mezie believes many of the actresses have less responsibilities and they can afford to live extravagant lifestyles.
“Many of these my female colleagues are not their families’ breadwinners. The actresses either have husbands or boyfriends who make things happen for them. In the case of men, they to provide for their women- wives or girlfriends. Apart from their little income from movie roles, most actresses are pampered by their husbands, fiancés, boyfriends, admirers and even politicians including governors,” Mezie said.
Samuel Olatunji, a journalist with TheSun newspaper, said the actresses are bound to live better than their male counterparts because they get more jobs in terms of movie roles.
“Roles are limited for male. If you check an average movie, you will see more female than male. Secondly, most of them have fewer responsibilities compared to their male counterparts. An actress most often has someone footing the bill(husband, boyfriend or admirer), while the guys on the other hand have school fees, bills and concubines’ bill to pay,” Olatunji submitted.
For those saying it’s a man’s world, Mike Alonge, blogger and movie critic, begs to differ.
“It is women’s world these days and you should expect them to dominate in all areas, professions or organisations. Even in church today, they occupy 70 percent of the seats,” Alonge said.
According to him, the global entertainment industry thrives on beauty and largely, sex. These women, including Nigerian actresses understand this, and they are ever willing to take advantage of it.
“The actresses have a unique selling point which is their beauties. Even a blind man can identify a beautiful lady when he touches one. So, their beauty has been the major attraction and their unique selling point globally and Nigeria is no exception. So definitely, they will keep living better than their male counterparts until proper structures are put in place to favour everyone as it is the case in Hollywood,” Alonge submitted.
In her own defence, Nuella Njubigbo said contrary to what critics say about her and other fellow actresses, many of the actresses work hard on locations to live the kind of life considered extravagant and beyond their means.
“I can only speak for myself. I have other businesses that I do by the side. But even if it’s just acting, what I earn can actually get me such car and even enable me live well. Those saying all that, I am not sure they have gone to the market to see the number of movies I have done in the last one year. I have done a lot,” Nuella told P.M.NEWS Entertainment Cafe.
But for how long will this disparity continue and when will the fans begin to see their favourite actors live a life of opulence like their female counterparts? Olatunji said: “Since the industry is controlled largely by men, and it is a common knowledge that men like doing business with women, it becomes obvious why the anomaly will continue.”