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I love these pictures! Although some have appeared on this blog before, it is good to put them together in one place. I got most of them from a beautiful, beautiful post at Gorgeous Black Women (link to follow):

LaurynHill

Lauryn Hill, American singer

Dakore Egbuson

Dakore Egbuson, Nigerian actress

OluchiOnCoverOfI-D

Oluchi Onweagba, Nigerian fashion model

Vanessa A. Williams

Vanessa A. Williams, American actress

ErykahBaduBW

Erykah Badu, American singer

India Arie

India Arie, American singer

Loews Lincoln Center

YaYa Da Costa, American model

Clara Aker Benjamin

Clara Aker Benjamin, South Sudanese fashion model

Amber Efé

Amber Efé, American stage actress

rojane08

Rojane Fradique, Brazilian fashion model

Abang Othow

Abang Othow, South Sudanese model

goapele

Goapele, American singer

lisa_bonetLisa Bonet, American actress

Naty Soul

Naty Soul, Congolese model

Atong Arjok

Atong Arjok, South Sudanese model (Nubian)

DWF15-817346

Genevieve Nnaji, Nigerian actress

Algebra Blessett

Algebra Blessett, American singer

gloriareubenGloria Reuben, Canadian actress

aissa02Aissa Maiga, Senegalese-French actress

jill-scottJill Scott, American singer

Why I love these pictures: First, because the women are beautiful. Second, because their hair is natural (or looks it – some of the models might be wearing wigs. I am easily fooled about that kind of thing). Just the idea of it being natural makes them even more beautiful. At least to me.

Natural hair tells me that they are not ashamed of being black, that they are not ashamed of being themselves. And so that alone makes them more beautiful. Like when Lisa Bonet played Denise Huxtable on “The Cosby Show”  she dressed in her own style and said just what she felt, not being afraid of other people thinking she was messed up or something.

It is like the difference between Beyonce and Lauryn Hill – or Erykah Badu. It is no accident that Erykah and Lauryn mostly wear their hair in  a natural style while Beyonce rarely does. It speaks to how they see themselves in the world.

I am one of those people who do not like Beyonce. Part of it, certainly, is that she is trying to be what other people want her to be – and not just her plain old self, her true self. Her younger sister Solange wears her hair black, at least, and just that alone makes me like her way more. She says she not trying to be like “picture-perfect Beyonce”. That is the trouble with Beyonce: she can sing pitch perfect and look picture perfect, but her true self gets lost in her attempt to be perfect. She is shell not soul.

Lauryn Hill, on the other hand, is singing from somewhere inside herself. And as to Erykah Badu, half the reason I like her so much is that she is completely unashamed of being herself.

I know women have straight hair for all kinds of reasons, like wanting to look professional for work or to be in fashion or to get a man. But sometimes I do have to wonder whether it is not always as innocent as all that, that maybe deep down something else is going on, in at least in some cases.

For those living in America, a country that is mainly white and which spends billions pushing white beauty, and a particular kind of white beauty at that, it would be surprising if there were not some amount of internalized racism at work.

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mercyMercy Johnson (c. 1982- ) is an actress in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. She has been in more than 70 films, the best known of these being “The Maid”, “Kill the Bride”, “Last Kiss” and “My Heart Your Home”. She is good at playing crying women.

She is known for her sex appeal: she has a great figure. The press often calls her “dark-skinned”.

She does not always dress well. She says, “I’ll rather sponsor a child than spend 180,000 nairas on a designer bag.” Yet even when she first tried out for a part in a film she showed up with bedroom slippers on her feet!

She seemed to have come out of nowhere and, well, she did: she did not know anyone in Nollywood. She did not even have any training. She just showed up at the national theatre, trying out for part after part till she got one. She just kept at it, never giving up:“I knew what I wanted and I had to go for it.” It was that or computer school, like her father wanted.

She says her success is simply a matter of hard work and the favour of God, which gave her talent.

Her first film was “Moving Train” (2000). Her big break came two years later when she got the lead  in “The Maid” (2002).

Despite all that, and despite having acted in high school plays, she never wanted to be an actress! Instead her aim was to be like Genevieve Nnaji, the top actress in Nollywood, whom she admires (and has since worked with). She still has a ways to go.

She is known for her kissing on film. She feels nothing when she does it – for her it is just make-believe, part of her work, which she wants to keep separate from her feelings.

In 2008 she was buying up property. Partly to put her millions of nairas into something, but partly to buy land for what she calls the House of Mercy, which will be a home  for unwanted or parentless children.

She used to sell water on the streets of Lagos. She can prove by marks on her legs from the many times she fell down in the gutter.

She was born the fourth of seven children – four girls, three boys – in Satellite Town, Lagos. She had a strict Christian upbringing. Because her father was an officer in the navy she spent part of her childhood in Calabar. She was the apple of his eye and loves to talk about him. Yet she will not talk about her mother – or her current boyfriend. She hopes to get married by 2010.

She went to Lagos State University for an English degree but did not complete her studies.

She is a homebody who likes to play Monopoly at home rather than go out dancing.

In 2009 the Nigerian press, which sometimes just makes up stuff, says she was going with singer D’Banj and fought over him with Rukky Sanda. Both of them deny it up and down when asked.

mercy04mercy03mercy05mercy08mercy09mercy10mercy11

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Iniobong Edo Ekim (1982- ), better known simply as Ini Edo, is one of the top actresses  in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. Her first film was “Thick Madam” (2003). She has been in over a hundred films, just 30 in 2007 alone. Some are on YouTube as of this writing (May 2009). Nollywood films are cheap, straight-to-video affairs, not grand Hollywood productions.

According to this blog she is the eighth most beautiful Nigerian actress. She has beautiful eyes, but lacks the figure of an Omotola or the all-round good looks of Genevieve Nnaji.

Although she loves acting, has acted since she was a child in church and at school, and even though she studied theatre arts at the University of Uyo, she did not see herself becoming an actress! She was thinking of going into law or television. Nollywood at that point had not yet taken off. But one thing led to another and she found herself acting in a film. Both she and others were pleased with how well she did.

Well, her father was not so pleased, not at first. He wanted her to get her degree first. And besides, she was just 19 at the time, a young woman. To become a film actress meant going to a city far away where she knew no one. He was afraid people would take advantage of her. But it all turned out well in the end: a film director saw her talent and took her under his wing and looked out for her like a father. And she did get her degree too, from the University of Calabar, though it was not easy to balance acting with her studies.

Some actresses feel like they have to sleep with the producer to get ahead. She thinks that does not work in the long run, not as well as hard work and talent. Men came on to her all the time when she was single, but she did not let them turn her head: she knew what they all were after.

ini03In November 2008 she got married to Philip Ehiagwina, a businessman.  Nollywood actress Rita Dominic came to the wedding. Edo had a second wedding in February 2009 in America, in Houston, Texas, where her husband is based.

Their relationship had been in the newspapers: not just because Edo is one of those people that newspapers like to write things about, true and untrue, but also because Ehiagwina had already been married, to Ruth Okoro, a Nigerian-American model and actress. Okoro made his leaving her for Edo ugly and public, both of them saying terrible things about each other. If Okoro is to be believed, Ehiagwina is a heartless, untrustworthy character.

Ini Edo is an Ibibio from Akwa Ibom state in the south-east, not far from Calabar. Her mother was a teacher and her father, a church elder. She had a strict upbringing, the second of four children, three girls, one boy.

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gennyGenevieve Nnaji (1979- ) is a Nigerian actress, widely seen as the top actress in Nollywood, a superstar even. She is well-known not just in Nigeria but across English-speaking Africa, if not beyond.

She is also, according to this blog, the most beautiful actress in Nigeria. I am hardly alone in that opinion. I have read that she has bad skin and duck feet, but she is a beauty to me!

In 2004 she was the face of Lux soap in Nigeria. Her face appeared on billboards across the country.

She has appeared in dozens of films, at least 80. Nollywood films take about a month to make and most go straight to video. They seem to run about 90 minutes.

As of this writing (January 2009) you can see some of her films on YouTube – cut up into ten-minute pieces (the longest video YouTube allows). I do not remember seeing her films there a year ago and I doubt they will still be there a year from now. So go see her while you have the chance! She acts in English.

I have not seen any of her films all the way through yet, so I do not know how much of her stardom is due to her charm and beauty and how much to her acting talent.

When she went to Sierra Leone after the war the people there were overjoyed to see her, like she was a visiting princess or something. People love her in Ghana too.

Well, not everyone loves her. Most people tend to either love her or hate her. It is hard to be in the middle about her.

Her parents had a hard time accepting her decision to become an actress. Acting is not a universally respected profession in Nigeria, not like law or engineering. All the stories in the press about the private lives of Nollywood stars does not help either – it makes acting seem like an immoral way of life. So much so that people urge Nnaji to turn to God!

She does believe in God – she is Catholic. In fact, she says this is what God wants her to do now in her life. Part of how she knows it was God’s will is that her father, who has always been so strict, surprisingly let her go into acting!

At the beginning it was hard: she was a nobody who had to prove her talent. But now her troubles are those of being famous: the press that tries to tear her down and tell the world all about her private life, even spreading false stories about her.

She had a child at 17 and one year she was not allowed to make any films at all – neither of which were able to sink her star.

In addition to acting, she came out with some songs, like “No More”, and a line of clothing called Sainte Genevieve.

She is an Igbo. She was born in her mother’s hometown in Imo state but grew up in Lagos.

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Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)

Zombie no go go, unless you tell am to go (Zombie)
Zombie no go stop, unless you tell am to stop (Zombie)
Zombie no go turn, unless you tell am to turn (Zombie)
Zombie no go think, unless you tell am to think (Zombie)

Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)

Zombie no go go, unless you tell am to go (Zombie)
Zombie no go stop, unless you tell am to stop (Zombie)
Zombie no go turn, unless you tell am to turn (Zombie)
Zombie no go think, unless you tell am to think (Zombie)

Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)

Tell am to go straight – joro, jara, joro
No break, no job, no sense – joro, jara, joro
Tell am to go kill – joro, jara, joro
No break, no job, no sense- joro, jara, joro
Tell am to go quench – joro, jara, joro
No break, no job, no sense- joro, jara, joro
Go and kill – joro, jara, joro
Go and die – joro, jara, joro
Go and quench- joro, jara, joro
Put am for reverse – joro, jara, joro
Go and kill – joro, jara, joro
Go and die – joro, jara, joro
Go and quench – joro, jara, joro (3x)

Joro, jara, joro – O zombie way na one way (3x)
joro, jara, joro – oh

Attention
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Quick march
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Slow march
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Left turn
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Right turn
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
About turn
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Double time
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Sa-lute
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Open your hat
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Stand at ease
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Fall in
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Fall out
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Fall down
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Get ready
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)

Ha-lt
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)

Attention
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Quick march
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Slow march
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Left turn
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Right turn
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
About turn
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Double time
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Sa-lute
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Open your hat
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Stand at ease
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Fall in
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Fall out
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Fall down
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Get ready
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)

Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)

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Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (1978- ), also known as Omosexy, is one of the top actresses in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. Known all across English-speaking Africa and beyond, only Genevieve Nnaji clearly outshines her.

She is probably best known for “Blood Sisters” (2003), “The Prostitute” and, the film that made her name, “Mortal Inheritance” (1996). She has been in more than 250 films. Most Nollywood films are cheap, straight-to-video affairs.

In American terms she is sort of like Toccara Jones with the acting talent of Uma Thurman.

According to this blog, she is the second most beautiful Nigerian actress. I would watch a film just because she was in it. She is one of those women that it is hard for me to take my eyes off of. She has an amazing body, a full African figure. Her eyes seem a bit small and far apart, but I love her face all the same. Especially her mouth and the way she moves it.

Her beauty is even more amazing when you consider that she has had four children. She had them pretty early so it was easier for her to get back to her old shape. But now that her body knows a larger size, she has to fight it, exercising every day (walking) and watching what she eats (plenty of fruit, turkey and chicken without the skin).

She says the secret to being beautiful is to love yourself. Get that right and all else will follow.

It was easy for her to get into film: not only is she beautiful but she has natural acting talent, making characters come to life. Producers wanted her in their films!

In the early days her mother stopped her from taking certain parts: she was a strict Christian and brought up Omotola that way. It seems to have stuck with her. For one thing, Omotola has been married to the same man for 12 years. That is a long time for the Nollywood set.

Her father, the manager of a Lagos country club, died when she was young. It made her more serious than most. It also made acting possible: her father would not have allowed her to act, but with him gone they needed the money.

Omotola is Yoruba, but speaks English as if it was her mother tongue. Maybe it is.

In 2006 it was discovered that film producers were paying her and other top stars huge sums of money. So they were not allowed to act in any films for a year. Some thought Nollywood would fall, but it made it through. In the meantime Omotola went into singing. She came out with one album and in 2008 is working on her second. Her first one was not so great.

Like Angelina Jolie, Omotola is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. They sent her to Sierra Leone and Liberia, two countries torn apart by war. The people there have seen her films and love her.

Her song “Feel Alright” was playing everywhere in Nigeria in April 2009. Here is the YouTube video:

My mini picture gallery:

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dakore4.jpg

Dakore Egbuson (1978- ) is a Nigerian actress who calls herself the “it” girl of Nollywood. She was in “Emotional Crack”, “Dangerous Sisters” with Genevieve Nnaji, “Before the Sunrise” and dozens of others. She has won three Reel Awards, the top acting award in Nigeria.

Her name sounds like “Da Corray Egboo Sonn”.

Her characters are mostly strong women who are rich and stuck on themselves . Despite her awards some say she is not so much acting as being herself, that she does not have a wide acting range, that she is put in films more for her beauty than for her acting talent.

Beautiful she is. She has beautiful eyes and lips and a lovely figure. She has dreadlocks – avoiding the terrible hairdos Nollywood has seen – and knows how to dress and carry herself.

She wears her hair in dreadlocks because it is easier than braids (which keep falling out) or a perm. But she also does it to show her Africanness. Dreadlocks came to Nigeria from Jamaica, true, but it is a way for a black woman to wear her hair naturally.

She says Africa meets the West in her. She did not understand it till she was living in London: “When you see yourself in a sea of white people, you become more aware of whom you are.”

Although she is an Ijaw, born in Bayelsa in the middle of the Niger Delta, she grew up in Lagos. Her father was a builder. She was sent to good schools and had the best of everything.

She went to the University of Lagos and became a television presenter. She was not thinking about acting.

Then one day she ran into Emem Isong, a film producer. He took one look at her and wanted her in his shows. She read some lines for him. Nothing seem to come of it. But a year later, in 2000, he gave her the lead in a film, “Silent Tears”. That led to other films and the rest is history.

She was in Britain for a while. There she was a dancer and a backing singer. She was also a presenter and producer for BEN television, a channel on Sky Digital for black Africans living in Europe and north Africa.

In 2007 she became the face of Amstel Malta. Malta is a sort of virgin beer made into a soft drink. It is common in the Caribbean and West Africa.

She likes jazz, R & B and Afrobeat music.

She starts each day with a prayer to God. Then she has green tea and talks with her mother.

She looks up to American actress Halle Berry (soft yet strong), South African singer Miriam Makeba and Nigerian beauty queen Nike Oshinowo (Miss Nigeria 1991).

She fell in love with Olumide Akande, the son of a very rich man. Some say his parents are against it and that she will have to give up acting to marry him, the man she loves.

dakore12.jpgdakore11.jpgfiance.jpgdakore3.jpgdakore07.jpgdakore08.jpgdakore10.jpgdakore1.jpg

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Here are the ten most beautiful Nigerian actresses that I know of.

As someone who lives in America who has not yet seen a Nollywood film, this is very much a work in progress! I am going by pictures and YouTube videos I have seen on the Internet.

1. Genevieve Nnaji (1979- ) – by far the best. I have read that she has bad skin and duck feet, but she is a beauty to me! Someone I might put in my top ten list of all black actresses. She is an Igbo from the Mbaise region in the south-east. In 2004 she was the face of Lux soap. More.

2. Omotola Jalade Ekeinde – also known as Omo Sexy. What a body!! Even after having four children. Toccara, step aside. She not only acts but sings and writes too. She is Yoruba. More.

3. Dakore Egbuson (1978- ) – what eyes! She is an Ijaw from the Niger Delta. She lives with her mother in Lagos. Her father is in New York. She sees herself as the meeting between Africa and the West. She did not truly understand herself till the time she lived in London: “When you see yourself in a sea of white people, you become more aware of whom you are.” More.

4. Georgina Onuoha – not as well-known as some of the others on this list, but I like how she looks!


5. Kate Henshaw-Nuttall – she is married to a British man.

6. Bimbo Akintola – unlike most of these women, she is from the south-west. She is Yoruba.

7. Rita Dominic (1975- ) – like Genevieve Nnaji, she is from Imo state in the south-east. Known for her silky skin.

8. Ini Edo (1982- ) – from Akwa Ibom on the south-eastern coast. She has been acting since she was a child. More.

9. Oge Okoye – born in London, she comes from Anambra state in the south-east. She has wanted to be an actress since she was a child. Her parents are devout Anglicans.

10. Stephanie Okereke – she went to the University of Calabar in the south-east. She came in second in 2002 in the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria that crowns Miss Nigeria. “Emotional Crack” made her name and won her two awards.

Most of these women are in Lagos acting in television soaps and in dozens of straight-to-video films that are seen across English-speaking Africa.

Most are from the south-east. I am not sure why. Maybe south-eastern women supply most of Nollywood’s female acting talent – maybe because they speak better English or are considered to be more beautiful. Or maybe it is just me: the south-east is next to Cameroon where I think the women are more beautiful still.

Before I did this post the only women I knew of from Nigeria were Genevieve Nnaji and the supermodels Oluchi and Agbani.

Compared to Hollywood actresses or even Nigerian supermodels most of these women are thick, having a much fuller figure.

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