It’s been nearly 10 years since Jenifa bounced into the hearts of Nigerians in that first movie, which birthed a sequel and more recently a TV series that still has fans in stitches. Funke Akindele, the woman behind the character in more ways than one, is a woman of many parts. Here are 6 reasons why this skilled actress, screenwriter, producer and director is simply exceptional:
1. She has always been determined. At 19 with an OND in Mass Communication, she tirelessly pursued her dream of acting, waking early to attend countless auditions. She had an understanding boss who gave her time off to chase the dream, and a mother who drove her to auditions and encouraged her, but one can guess that the Funke we’ve come to know would still have found a way even without their wonderful support.
2. She doesn’t give up. When the roles weren’t coming after numerous auditions — not even waka pass — many young women would have given up and concluded that perhaps acting wasn’t for them. It would have been easy for her to abandon her acting dream and follow her father’s dream of a career in law instead, but she persisted. She applied to study law and kept going for auditions until her time came.
3. She’s a hard worker. She did a great job with her first big acting role and made many a young person’s afternoon back in the day in the UNFPA-sponsored I Need To Know. Although her teen years were behind her, the then 20-year-old Funke still played her role convincingly, albeit after a shaky start. We learnt many things from the conversations she had with her mother (played by Carol King) and her friends. Those girls were always talking, especially her character Bisi, so we can only imagine the pages and pages of lines she had to put in her head. Her hard work certainly paid off.
4. She knows how to adapt. When crossing over from TV into Nollywood proved more difficult than she had anticipated, Funke did not sit on a high horse as some who had played major roles on TV would have. She accepted a small role in a Yoruba movie and did so well that the director of that first film, Ebu Ika, called her for more jobs and even urged her to focus on Yoruba films.
5. She aims high. Funke could have decided to limit herself to acting in Yoruba movies, but her desire to do great things was strong. After some three-scene and four-scene roles in Yoruba movies, she decided to produce her own movie. In 2004, she took an old script she had written in 1996, made changes to it and, with funds her mum helped her raise, produced her first movie, Ojoketala. It was also her first lead role, and in 2005, marketers took up the movie. So began her journey as a producer, which saw her make other Yoruba films like Etanu, Egun, and Ekuro.
6. She is uniquely creative. At a time when fans of Nollywood were sick and tired of “Aristo movies”, Funke took an over-flogged theme and made it different by creating Sulia of Ayetoro, a character that has stayed alive one decade later!
With her big dreams, her drive, and her strong work ethic, her fans can be assured that they certainly haven’t seen the best of her yet. In fact, if her growth over the years is anything to go by, some unparalleled entertainment is on the way!