The film business is one relentless business that needs a tough skin to wind up fruitful. African actresses probably won’t have found the opportunity to take on the huge stage as much in the previous decade. However things are better nowadays. Presently we have new names becoming showbiz royalty and making an imprint in the film industry.
In her acceptance speech at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Viola Davis stated that women of color are just as good in front of the camera, only they don’t get as many opportunities as they should. Even so, there are a number of African American actresses leading the charge and making waves in Hollywood. In this article, we shall be focusing on ten African American actresses pushing the envelope in Hollywood and establishing themselves as A-listers.
Charlie Theron was born on 7th August 1975. The South African-American actress doubles as a film producer. Theron was thrust into the limelight after her role in “The Devil’s Advocate” in the 1990s.
Some of her more known films include:
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• Snow White and the Huntsman
• Atomic Blonde
• Dark Places
The dizzying heights of Hollywood fame were nothing to the then-budding star who went on to star in many other movies even winning an Academy Award for her stellar performance in the “Monster” playing the serial killer Aileen Wuornos.
Michelle Van Der Water
The actress was born in Cape Town, South Africa. Soon after her birth, the family moved to Australia settling in a small town an hour’s drive from Sydney. There Michelle went to high school at Inaburra High School located in the Sutherland Shire after which she went on to graduate from Wollongong University. She took a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Arts in Graphic Design and New Media.
Over her career, Michelle Van Der Water has appeared in many films, including:
• Teeth and Blood
• We Are Love
And many more.
Before acting, she started out with modelling while taking acting classes on the side. After some time taking acting classes she realized that her love for acting was much stronger. She started out in 2000 after moving to Los Angeles.
She has appeared on a number of films taking on short roles on various major films. One of the main roles was in the movie “Minotaur” as Queen Raphaella starring alongside Tony Todd and Tom Hardy. Other performances came in works such as the renewal of the series “Melrose Place,” “Castle,” and NCIS: Los Angeles.
The 35-year-old Oscar winner has had a dreamy run in Hollywood and is one of the most sought-after actresses in the industry at current. Lupita Nyongo was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents and holds dual citizenship for the two countries.
It’s safe to say that you’ve seen Lupita Nyong’o in more than one film, as she played roles in:
• 12 Years a Slave
• Black Panther
• Star Wars: Episode VII & Episode VIII
• The Jungle Book
The South Africam born star wouldn’t have thought of herself in the movies in her younger days. McClure had the aspiration to work in medicine and never gave acting a single thought. Her movie career kicked off in the most unexpected of ways.
• Romeo Must Die
• Seventh Son
• Mother’s Day
• Ten Days in the Valley
• All My Children
Elize du Toit
Du Toit was born in Grahamstown, South Africa. She spent much of her childhood in the country but obtained her education abroad. In 1994, She became a student at Wellington College and quickly established herself as a great learner of language and the arts. She also pursued history at the University of Edinburgh, where she was active in theater, performing on numerous occasions with the Edinburg University Theater.
Elize du Toit played supporting and leading roles in the following movies:
• The Devil’s Chair
• In Your Dreams
• Flirting with Flamenco
Benu Mabhena was born in London, UK. While she can trace her acting development to the US, the actress bloodline lies in Zimbabwe, where her parents and most of her siblings were born. Her family spent a lot of time on the move, settling in various times in Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Even though Chipo Chung was born in 1977 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzanian, she is actually half Zimbabwean and half Chinese. Her first two years of life were tumultuous, as her parents tried to establish a permanent residence due to the instability in Zimbabwe. During this time, she stayed in a refugee camp in Mozambique. When she turned 18, she left for the United States.
Chipo Chung appeared in the following films:
• In the Loop
In order to hone her raw acting talent, she attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and that acted as a stepping stone to roles in productions such as Doctor Who, Sunshine, Loop, Proof, Last Enemy, Sherlock, and Camelot.
Apart from being an actor, Chung is a well-known activist, and some of her work has involved setting up the SAFE-Kenya outfit, which campaigns towards creating awareness for HIV and educating the public on the limitations of clitoridectomy. She sits on the SAFE-Kemya trustees board.
Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha-Raw was born on 21st April 1983. She started her acting career in 2004 and has appeared in many critically acclaimed films often taking a major role. She is most known for her acting on the hit TV series “Black Mirror” where she played Kelly. She also appeared as Dido Elizabeth Belle in “Belle.” In “Beyond The Lights” she featured playing Noni Jean.
• Beyond the Lights
• Jupiter Ascending
• The Whole Truth
• Free State of Jones
She also had a role in the movie “Beauty and the Beast” in which she played Plumette. The South African actress was brought up by her South African father and Ann Raw an English nurse. She spent her formative years in Whitney where her acting passion grew.
Mbatha-Raw started out taking small roles in the theatre where she had one of her first breakthrough acting in the theatre version of Romeo and Juliet playing Juliet. In her career, she has made appearances in numerous films always winning her fans over and getting nominations for it. She has had many nominations over the years and won the Best breakthrough performance in the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.
The Los Angeles native is the daughter of Eritrean immigrants and an only child. The actress got acceptance letters from multiple Ivy League colleges such as Yale, Columbia, and Brown but instead got her degree in business administration from UC Berkeley. During her time in Berkeley, the actress started going for acting classes having to travel between Berkeley and L.A in order to attend acting classes.
• The Real O’Neals
Megalyn was born in Spokane, Washington to an English, German and Irish mother and a Nigerian Father. The actress was discovered early and started acting at the tender age of fourteen. Her aptitude in the performing arts was discovered when she acted in a play during a Summer art camp. You may know her from “The 4400” a TV series in which she had the main role as the grown-up Isabelle Tyler.
• House of Lies
• Damsels in Distress
She also had a recurring role in the series “Raising The Bar” broadcasted on TNT. She also held roles on CBS’ “Made In Jersey” “90210” “That’s The 70’s Show” and many others. The actress has also made her voice heard in the political front championing causes she believes in and creating awareness.
Rachel Mwanza is an actress from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Born in Mbuyi Mayi in the Kasai-Oriental Province of the DRC, the actress had to endure a tough childhood. In 2005, when Mwanza was only 8, her father sent the family to live in Kinshasa with the promise that he would join them later, something he failed to do.
Liya Kebede has done everything when it comes to the entertainment scene. The actress started out as a model and developed into a clothing designer and an advocate for maternal health advocate. In 2007 she rose to become the eleventh most paid model according to the Forbes list. Kebede was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While she may have made a name for herself in the acting scene Liya has done more as a model.