It seems that the whole world is coming together when it comes to the realm of entertainment. We are now enjoying more entertainers from across the world than ever before. In the past, each continent and many countries used to have their own awards and entertainment arenas, which were not necessarily recognized by the rest of the world.
However, with the new rise of international music, films, shows, and TV series that feature people from different parts of the world, we are beginning to see more and more people from across the globe being accepted in Hollywood and winning awards for their work. In the past, Europeans and Asians were sought after in Hollywood since they add a certain foreign sizzle to the acting scene. African actresses and actors have stolen the spotlight and they are some of the most sought after prospects in 2015.
It’s evident that 2014 was the biggest year for African celebrities in Hollywood. In the past, it was rare to see African actors and actresses making it big in blockbuster movies. For the longest time, non-Africans played African roles since it was hard for native Africans to make it in the acting scene. Even if they did, they have always been low-key, such that they made less noise even when they were cast in major roles.
However, we saw them break out in 2013 and 2014 as some went big and had major representation at many award ceremonies. The fact that there were multiple nominations for African actors at the Oscars, where some even bagged awards, is mind-blowing for Africa and the whole world. The following is a list of Africans who have made it big in Hollywood.
10. David Bailie – Swaziland, South Africa
David Bailie was born in South Africa in 1937 and attended school in Swaziland before emigrating to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with his family where he had his first minor acting roles. Bailie moved to Britain in 1960 and took up acting as a career, with many performances on stage, television and film through the 60s and 70s, including a role on Doctor Who in 1977. Bailie currently lives in England with his family. Today he is mostly known for his role of Cotton, a mute pirate who had his tongue cut out and who uses a trained parrot to speak on his behalf, in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films.
9. Benjamin Ochieng – Nairobi, Kenya
Kenya-born Benjamin Ochieng is slowly but steadily making a name for himself in Hollywood. At first, he was cast in productions that required a fluent Swahili-speaking actor, and he was good at it. However, he has risen among the ranks and is now being featured in major productions. He is popular with fans of TV series such as The X-files, The Shield, The Terminal, and others. He also has major credits for many short films, Christian movies, as well as documentaries.
8. Lupita Nyong’o – Born in Mexico, Raised in Kenya
Lupita Nyong’o is currently one of the hottest sensations in Hollywood. She had her big moment in 2014, winning an Oscar for her outstanding performance as the best supporting actress in the film Twelve Years a Slave. Lupita was born in Mexico to her father, professor Anyang Nyong’o, who is a politician in Kenya, and mother Dorothy Nyong’o. She attained her junior education in Kenya and proceeded to attend college in the U.S. She was also a student at the Yale School of Drama.
Lupita seems to have had a burst of good luck since she became the first African actress to win an Oscar. She has been featured in many major magazines making her a fashion icon. She is also featured in more movies this year including the popular Star Trek sequel. She has become a strong icon for girls and women in Africa by being a motivational pillar. For someone who has not been in the acting scene for long, Lupita shows tremendous potential with over 50 awards nominations, of which she has won over half.
7. Peter Mensah – Accra, Ghana
Peter Mensah is known for strong roles in big movies such as Avatar, 300, Hildago, Tears of the Sun, The Incredible Hulk, and many TV series. His work in the popular TV series Spartacus may have sky rocketed his popularity and he started getting roles in big productions such as Burn Notice and Transformers Prime. Peter Mensah is originally from Accra, Ghana where he was born and lived with his father who was an engineer and mother who was a writer. They moved to England when he was 11 years old. Mensah’s home is currently in Canada.
6. Chiwetel Ejiofor – Parents Emigrated From Nigeria
Chiwetel Ejiofor is actually one of the biggest sensations in Hollywood today. His parents are originally from Nigeria, his father a doctor and his mother a pharmacist. They had migrated to London by the time he was born. However, his father passed away in a car accident during a trip back to Nigeria.
Ejiofor began exploring acting from the age of 13. During his first year in college at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Steven Spielberg cast him in the film Amistad and he dropped out of school. He has made quite a name for himself since then, being cast in many TV series as well as major films, which have won him several awards. He is mostly known for his role in Twelve Years a Slave where he starred besides Lupita Nyong’o, American Gangster, and Love Actually among other major films.
5. Edi Gathegi – Nairobi, Kenya
Edi Gathegi is one of the actors who have been creating a stir in Hollywood while keeping a low profile at the same time. Gathegi was born in Nairobi, Kenya and moved to Albany with his parents when he was young. His first love was basketball, which he was good at until he hurt his knee badly. He only took up acting classes because he thought it was an easy way out of his depression over the loss of basketball. He discovered that he liked acting even more and enrolled for acting classes at NYU. He is popularly known for his role in the TV series House, the Twilight Saga, X-Men: First Class, Gone Baby Gone, and other major productions. He is definitely one to watch in 2015.
4. Djimon Honsou – Cotonou, Benin
Speaking of exotic actors, Djimon Honsou wins with his alluring accent and role perfection. He was born in Benin where his father was a cook and moved to France with his brother when he was 13. He was surrounded by trouble during his younger years as he struggled to make it in the foreign land of France. He even became homeless and dropped out of school at some point in life. His good luck began to turn around when he met a photographer who introduced him to French fashion designer Thierry Mugler. Thiery helped him to build a modeling career and he moved to the US in the 90s where he was first discovered after appearing in a music video by Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. His first film appearance was in the film Without You Am Nothing. He was also cast in other famous films including Gladiator, Blood Diamond, Tomb Raider, and multiple TV series.
3. Danai Gurira – Parents Born in Zimbabwe
Danai was born in Iowa but her parents both moved to the States from Zimbabwe where her father was a chemistry lecturer. Danai attended NYU during her college years and took up acting in the Tisch School of the Arts. She has been making a name for herself in Hollywood for a long time. She is popular for her roles in productions such as Lie to Me, Law and Order, The Visitor, Ghost Town and My Soul to Take, but is probably best known for her role as the sword-wielding character Michonne on the AMC series The Walking Dead.
2. Idris Elba – Parents Born in Sierra Leone and Ghana
Sometimes actors have a debate surrounding them as to how “African” they actually are. Idris Elba is one such actor, given that he has lived in England most of his life. However, the fact remains that this Hollywood success was born to a father from Sierra Leone and a mother from Ghana. Elba kicked off his career as a hired DJ and he started his own DJ-company later. He decided to try acting and he auditioned for the TV series Absolutely Fabulous. He has since grown to take on major roles in many of Tyler Perry‘s productions such as Thor, Luther, Mandela and many others. He was even nominated for the best actor at the Golden Globe Awards for his role in Luther in 2011.
1. Charlize Theron – Benoni, South Africa
Charlize Theron is a famous actress, fashion model and producer. The surprising thing about her is that most people have no idea that she has African roots. She was born in Benoni, South Africa and she only became a U.S. citizen in 2007 while retaining her South African citizenship as well. She started as a dancer and became an actress later in life. She has been cast in major productions such as Prometheus, Monster, Snow White and The Huntsman and other major box office successes. She has already won a Golden Globe Award, a Silver Bear, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Academy Award. She is also a major producer as well as a strong fashion icon.