As Nollywood prepares for its first ever movie awards, ace Nigerian actress; Ngozi Ezeonu, reminisces about the industry

Ngozi Ezeonu, the Nigerian born Nollywood actress, has some 150 movies to her credit. Ngozi started her acting career in 1993 in the Nigerian movie industry which is also known as Nollywood. She was born on May 23, 1965 and originally hails from Anambra State in the west African country of Nigeria. The actress has 6 other siblings, 5 of whom are males. Her first paying job according to her was hair-styling, she had also trained to become a journalist, though fate made her  step into the field of acting.

Nigeria’s movie industry is the fastest growing in the world, comparing the industry now to when she started almost a decade and half ago, Ngozi sees a lot of improvement now. For her, the industry has become a lot more competitive and complicated, a stark contrast from what it was in her hay days. The actress is also excited to see the growth in Nollywood which has led to the Nigerian movie industry preparing to hold its first ever Nollywood Movies Awards at the Civic Center in Lagos Nigeria on June 2, 2012.

As Nigeria prepares for this maiden awards ceremony which will be akin to the Oscars of Hollywood, yours truly listens to this Nigerian superstar as she reminisces about one thing being clear in Nollywood, which is that ”we had more beautiful stories when I started than I see now,” she says, and so for Ngozi, even though the acting has improved in quality and production, the story lines and directing need to be stepped up as the competition in the acting industry is getting keener by the day. Ngozi Ezeonu has starred in tons of Nigerian movies, a good one I personally saw was the one in which she starred alongside her compatriot; Desmond Elliot in the movie ‘A Night in the Philippines’.

The Nigerian actress who still believes the African movie industry has come a long way from the humble beginnings of the past when most of her viewer-ship was predominantly within her homeland of Nigeria. Now there are people seeing Nigerian movies on their screens all across the globe.

It appears information proliferation has taken the African movie industry in its wings and wherever you see Africans in the world today, the potential to see African movies, especially Nigerian films, is as high as seeing your own shadow in the sunlight. This for Ngozi is a really encouraging milestone. This proliferation has changed the way things used to be like decades ago where in the past, there were very few people to look up to for inspiration in the field of acting, today people in Nigeria and across Africa look up to actors and actresses like Ngozi Ezeonu and others on the continent for inspiration in life and in acting.

The the Nigerian movie industry is the third largest on the globe today, Nollywood as it is affectionately known, firmly takes a respectable position behind Bollywood, the Indian movie industry and ultimately Hollywood, the American movie-making giant. In-spite of its well acclaimed position of being the 3rd with most productions in the world of movies, remuneration for African stars in Nollywood until recently was nowhere close to what fellow actors in India’s Bollywood and the USA’s Hollywood make.

Ngozi, who’s first appearance on the screens was when she played supporting lead in—Nneka, the pretty serpent—an Igbo movie, readily admits that the earning power has improved these-days. Acting in Nollywood today earns one a respectable paycheck than it did in the days when the industry’s boom was starting. Time is all one needs in this industry to get better and once that time approaches it will bring improvements not only in paychecks, but in the quality of productions, storylines and ultimately acting the actress believes!

The earning power of a Nigerian actor/actress is not fixed or limited, and depending on one’s marketability, quality and bargaining power, they can walk away with a $15,000 paycheck for starring in a movie, lower or in certain cases much more higher. It all boils down to how well one sells themselves and how good they are. Ngozi Ezeoni’s big break came when she starred as Thelma in the ever famous Nigerian movie, ‘Glamour Girls‘. From there on, it was up, up the hill.

Money however is not the greatest allure in Ngozi’s acting career, to her, ”acting is a form of evangelism through which…” She continues ”…I have been able to put across positve messages.’‘ By so doing, she believes she is paying her dues to the community. To Ngozi, acting is a medium through which she is giving back what life has given her in the form of fame, status and  talents.

Ngozi has proudly worked with other Nigerian greats like Pete Edochie, Liz Benson, Sola Fosudo, Sola Shobowale, Clarion Chukwurah, Justus Esiri, and Eucharia Anunobi-Ekwu among many others which will be vying for honors this June in the maiden Nollywood Movies Awards to be held in Nigeria’s capital Lagos in June 2012.

The Nigerian actress who does a lot of charity work on the quiet like many African women, is one who prefers not to go to the market about the good that she does by way of charity and other humanitarian activities. Ngozi prefers to be reserved about this and let her actions, rather than her words, speak for her.

Though Ngozi Ezeonu is also a trained journalist, she gets most of her job satisfaction from acting and when pressed to speak about her charity projects, she reluctantly breaks her silence by giving some insights to some of her humanitarian engagements. The Nigerian actress is making all the efforts she can to bring some improvement into the lives of polio survivors in Nigeria and to also better the living conditions of motherless children in her homeland and other countries across the African continent.

It has been over half a decade now since the Nigerian actress who is also a Catholic, separated from her husband owing to what she describes as their incompatibility. Her career as an actress however did not premonition this separation.

Responding to the query about what prompts her to take on movie roles, she reveals that she is the type that considers the impact her films will have on the public first and foremost and how positive her role can be in the attainment of that impact. She holds morals and her cultural values close to her heart and these are the defining factors that informs what movies she appears in.

Referring to the Ghanaian movie industry, Ngozi believes this neighboring west African industry has a lot of talents and potentials that can make it rise even higher above its present status, she believes the best way for African movies to sell themselves to the outside world is through the display of the continents rich culture in the movies that come out of Africa. Any attempt to replicate what is already common in the Americas and Europe will only backfire. So for Africans, the best person to tell our story is none  other than the people of Africa.

Undoubtedly one of the bright stars to emerge from Nollywood, Ngozi Ezeonu hasn’t exhausted her contributions to the still blossoming Nigerian and African movie industry. She has a lot more good stuff up her sleeves. Projecting into the future, she sees herself five steps ahead of where she is standing today.

Besides acting, Ngozi enjoys taking care of her children and listening to music, the late Whitney Houston happens to be one of her all time favorite musician whiles Whoopi Goldberg is one Hollywood actress she’d love to work with given the opportunity of a life time.

Written by Oral Ofori

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