The film industry has evolved and there are just a few who have witnessed the change and are still active in the game. They saw the movie industry’s transformation from celluloid to cassette; then its evolution to compact disc and now streaming services as well as cable television; they are also known across generations.
Despite the change that has come with technological advancement, these queens are still waxing strong. Newsmen highlights some of these matriarchs who have moved with time.
Veteran actress, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, was born as the first of a set of twin girls on February 3, 1941, in Lagos. She began her acting career in December 1966 in Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel ― a two-act comedy directed by William Gaskill at the Royal Court Theatre in London.
It was gathered that her acting debut was not planned; she was in the rehearsal hall of the play when she was asked by Gaskill to be a participant. After the encouragement she received following her performance and the invitations from producers that followed, she decided to pursue a career in acting.
Ever since then, the 79-year-old actress has featured in films like Dazzling Mirage, Oloibiri, Tinsel, among others.
Ajai-Lycett is also a journalist, television presenter, and cosmetologist.
Abiodun Duro-Ladipo was born in 1941. She began her career when she joined the Duro Ladipo theatre company ― a foremost travelling theatre in the 60s.
About a year after she joined the company, she later married the founder of the theatre group, Duro Ladipo.
She is notable for her success in projecting her role of Oya in Oba Koso and she is famous for playing the lead role in Moremi.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, she appeared across Europe in several international festivals.
Since her husband died in 1978, Abiodun took over the management of the theatre company ― an unusual task for women at the time ― and has been steadily appearing on Nigerian television screens.
In 2009, she once again played the role of Moremi in a film.
The name Idowu Phillips may not ring a bell, but once her stage name Iya Rainbow is mentioned, fans cannot but recall the actress who has entertained us for over four decades.
The 78-years-old actress began her career in her husband’s theatre group, Osumare theatre.
In an interview, she revealed how she got the stage name. She said, “my name is Idowu Philips; my late husband’s group was called Osumare Theatre, meaning Rainbow.
“One day, I went to act with some white men and in the course of acting, someone asked for the meaning of Osumare and I replied Rainbow! Then he said I should henceforth be called Iya Rainbow and that was it.”
Unknown to some, Iya Rainbow worked as a healthcare assistant in General Hospitals for several years and occasionally acted in the theatre.
However, she delved into full-time acting after the death of her husband – Augustine Ayanfemi Phillips, who worked closely with Sir Herbert Ogunde.
She had five children for her late husband.
The thespian, in several interviews, noted that she had always wanted to remarry after the death of her husband, but her prospective suitors always ran away after seeing all the kids that surrounded her.
She said that life was very tough for her after the death of her husband.
She has starred in movies like Sugar Rush, Oga Bolaji, Asiri Nla, Opa Eyin, Aje metta, among many others in the span of her career, which has lasted for over 40 years.
Aside from acting, Iya Rainbow runs a real estate business. She inherited the business from the late Alade Aromire, another popular actor, who she used to work with.
Fondly called Iya Awero by her fans and lovers, the 70-years-old actress began her career in the movie industry with the Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group.
Her acting career has spanned over four decades and she has featured in movies in both the Yoruba and English speaking sectors of the film industry.
Before she became a celebrated big movie star, her acting career was met with some resistance from her parents and guardians in the early days. It took much convincing before they finally accepted her career choice.
Also, she faced a strong career resistance from her late husband upon marriage but he was later convinced by the late Diran Ajijedidun of the Nigerian Television Authority and Bank Olemo.
In an interview, she revealed her regrets and plight as an actress because she lost two children while shooting a film.
She said, “It is so painful that my husband did not live up till this moment to see what I have become today. I didn’t see any cause to remarry because doing that means I have to start all over. I already have children and I just decided to focus on them. Having another marriage might lead to the neglect of my children and I didn’t want that.
“Even when I lost two children while shooting and had people saying all sort of things, like spiritual attack, we didn’t believe in that, because my God is sufficient enough.”
She has featured in movies such as King of Boys, Owo Blow, Family on Fire, Sade Blade, among others.
Although not a full-time actress as she is famous as a singer, she has gained giant strides in the film industry with the movies she has starred in.
Nicknamed the Elegant Stallion, in 2006, she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in the movie, Widow’s Cot.
She was also nominated that same year for African Movie Academy Award for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” in the movie “Rising Moon”
The 68-year-old’s first movie role was as Jumoke, a childless woman who adopted an abandoned baby in the film, Nightmare, by Zik Zulu Okafor.
In 2014, she featured in the movie Half of a Yellow Sun with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, and Genevieve Nnaji’s Lion Heart in 2018.
Born on May 23, 1957; the delectable actress began her career in 1993. Her first movie was the blockbuster, Onome, while her debut movie in the Yoruba speaking sector of the film industry was Owo Blow.
The 63-year-old actress used to work for a European engineering consultancy firm with its regional head office in Nigeria.
In an interview, she noted that she stopped working when she got married and started having children. Unfortunately, her marriage did not last. So, after her separation with the father of her kids, she took up acting again.
She revealed in an interview that one of her regrets in life was that she did not fight for her marriage.
In the span of her career, which is about 27 years, the multiple award-winning actress has featured in movies like The Wedding Party, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel, 30 Days in Atlanta, Sango, Out of Bounds, among others.
Patience Ozokwor, popularly known as Mama Gee is known for her evil roles in movies at the beginning of her career.
Also a musician and fashion designer, she began her career in 1998 and became popular a year after through her role in the movie, Authority.
The 62-year-old has probably starred in over 200 movies since she joined the Nigerian film industry.
Currently a widow, she got married in 1977 at the age 19, but her husband died in 2000. Since then, she has been a single mother, and recently, a grandmother. She has eight children – 5 adopted and 3 biological children.
The multiple award-winning actress won the Best Supporting Actress 2012 and 2013 award at the 10th Africa Movie Academy Awards.
Ozokwor was also among 100 Nigerians honoured by the government to celebrate the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates in 2014.
In an interview, the actress revealed that the only regret she has in her life was that she wasn’t allowed to marry the man of her choice.
She has featured in blockbuster movies like Chief Daddy, The Wedding Party 2, Mama G in America, To Rise Again, to mention a few.
Popularly known as Madam Saje, Fausat Balogun was born on February 13, 1959. She is a household name in the Yoruba speaking section of the Nigerian film industry.
The name, Madam Saje, stuck to her like glue when she played the character of Mama Saje in a 1990 television series titled Erin Kee Kee.
She is married to the actor Rafiu Balogun, who was her boss when she began her acting career.
In an interview, the actress revealed that she began acting after she completed her primary school education in 1975.
The 61-year-old actress said she faced resistance from her parents at the early stage of her career.
“At the initial stage of my acting career, my parents never supported me, especially my father; he was against acting. He would come to beat me out of wherever I went for rehearsals then, he would beat the hell out of me,” she reminisced.
However, when her parents realized she was making waves in the movie industry, they gave her their blessing.
She noted, “But later, when it got the stage where I was featured in stage plays, which were shown on NTA, he had no choice than to call me and said, if that was what I wanted, then so be it.”
She has featured in films like Amin: Amen, Omo Pupa, Boya Lemo, and several others.
Popularly known as Lola Idije, Toyin Afolyan is known as the initiator of popular internet slangs Soro Soke Werey and Pele My Dear.
Soro Soke Werey is a term used by #EndSars protesters in Nigeria to demand that Government speak up and louder on the excesses of the SARS Police unit in the country.
The 61-year-old actress is an aunt to popular Nigerian filmmaker and actor, Kunle Afolayan.
She shot into the limelight after starring as Madam Adisa in a 1995 film titled Deadly Affair.
It was gathered that Kunle Afolayan’s father, Adeyemi Afolayan aka Ade Love, introduced her to the world of make-believe.
The thespian has had her fair share of sad times as she lost her only son and husband. Left with three girls, the actress is a devout Christian, even though she plays wicked roles.
The multiple award-winning actress has featured in movies like Irapada, Igba Eda, Lady Terror and many more.
Joke Silva, a 59-year-old Member of the Order of the Federal Republic, began her career in film in the early 90s.
In 1998, she had a major role, starring alongside American actors ― Colin Firth and Nia Long ― in the British-Canadian film titled ‘The Secret Laughter of Women’.
In 2006, she won “Best Actress in a Leading Role” at the 2nd Africa Movie Academy Awards for her performance in Women’s Cot, and “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” at the 4th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2008 for her performance as a grandmother in White Waters.
She is married to Nigerian legendary actor, Olu Jacobs.
On 29 September 2014, Silva received recognition as a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic ― one of Nigeria’s National Honours ― at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.
She has starred in movies like Chief Daddy, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel, Potato Potahto, Diamond in the sky, among several others.