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10 Most Successful African Actresses In Hollywood

1. Lupita Nyong’o

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 a dual citizenship for the two countries.

Her claim to fame was the movie “12 Years A Slave” in which she played Patsey becoming the first Kenyan and Mexican to win the award. Since then she has gone on to feature in high-grossing films such as Marvel’s Black Panther, The Jungle Book and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The actress has had 56 nominations winning 36 times.

2. Kandyse McClure

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.

After auditioning for a friend’s play in Canada she received a call to audition for a much bigger role and from then dedicated her life to the profession. McClure has since appeared in a number of high-profile films including Romeo Must Die, Battleship Galactica and Da Vinci’s Inquest.

3. Thandie Newton

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 28: Thandie Newton attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

Thandiwe Nashita “Thandie” Newton has starred in many blockbuster Hollywood releases and has cemented her name as one of the biggest female stars of our times. The English actress has had roles in both American and British releases. Thandie Newton made her debut in acting in the film Flirting back in 1991. She went on to appear in the film “Interview With A Vampire” 3 years later.

Her most notable roles include Nyah Nordhoff-Hall in “Mission Impossible II,” Sally Hemings in “Jefferson In Paris,” Kate Thomas in “Norbit,” Linda in “The Pursuit of Happiness” and a title role in “Beloved.” Over her long-spanning career, Newton has won accolades for her exploits in the movie industry including; a Black Reel award for Best Ensemble in “The Chronicles of Riddick,” nomination for a Black Movie award for outstanding performance in a supporting role in “Crash”, Screen Actors Guild for outstanding performance by a cast in “Crash” among many others.

4. Ella Thomas

Thomas is of Eritrean and American descent. She spent most of her early life in Germany where she developed a love for the arts and especially the performing arts. After finishing her studies the actress went into acting and managed to carve a niche for herself. One of her most notable roles was on the hit TV series “Entourage” as Viveca.

She also appeared on CSI: Miami as P.Diddy’s girlfriend. Ella also appeared on “Castle” the hit show on ABC as well as playing a role in “Parenthood.” She has also had recurring roles in TV series such as Ballers and NCIS: Los Angeles. Apart from acting the actress has also appeared on a number of magazine covers including ELLE, American Vogue and Glamour where she had her own spreads. She has also done print advertising for major brands like Tiffany & Co., Gap, and Levis as well as automotive advertisements.

5. Megalyn Echikunwoke

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.

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. She hit the headlines when she got into a relationship with comedian Chris Rock. The two have been dating for some time with rumors of impending marriage doing rounds on the internet.

6. 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.

Before acting, she started out with modeling 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.

7. Liya Kebede

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.

In her acting career, she has appeared in movies such as The Best Offer, Desert Flower, Lord of War, Good Shepherd, and Samba. The actress and model have also given a lot to goodwill and even got appointed WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. She then took it a step further and founded her own charity foundation named the Liya Kebede Foundation founded to help reduce maternal and newborn mortality rates in Ethiopia. In 2013 Kebede won Glamor’s Women of the Year award for her philanthropy.

8. Gugu Mbatha-Raw

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.

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.

9. Azie Tesfai

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. Tesfai had her first taste of the silver screen when she appeared on FOX’s “Wicked Wicked Games.” She has also had roles on “Melrose Place”, “Franklin and Bash,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “Royal Pains.”

Tesfai has also done some humanitarian work even fighting to stop the shutdown of a non-profit she supported in her native
Ethiopia. In her trying to save the non-profit, Tesfai ended up opening her own such organization known as Fortuned Culture. The non-profit deals in selling jewelry and donating the proceeds to children in developing countries.

10. Charlize Theron

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. 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.

Upon winning the accolade, Theron became the first South African to take home the coveted prize. Since she won in 2003 the star has played roles in films such as Mad “Max: Fury Road” “Hancock” “Atomic Blonde” and “The Fate of the Furious”.


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