7 March 2018

Okayafrica Is Celebrating 100 Amazing Women for Women’s History Month: Uche Pedro, Tiwa Savage, Adesua Tomi, Jackie Aina, Pearl Thusi And Others Made the List

OkayAfrica, in the second annual OkayAfrica100 Women campaign, is celebrating extraordinary women from Africa and the diaspora making waves across a wide array of industries, while driving positive impact in their communities and the world at large.

The OkayAfrica 100 Women List spans 10 distinct categories: STEM; literature; TV and film; sports and wellness; style and beauty; media; music; business and economics; politics and activism; and art.

According to OkayAfrica, each of the honorees are selected based on achievement, impact and influence within their industries and communities within the last year.

Read OkayAfrica’s inspiring profile of some of this year honorees:

Uche Pedro

Uche Pedro
For Lagos-born entrepreneur Uche Pedro, education is not only a lifelong passion, but the reason for her success. College was, in fact, the seed from which her 12-year business would grow. The idea for the digital platform BellaNaija was conceived just two weeks after Pedro graduated from the Ivy Business School at Western University with an Honours Business Administration Bachelor’s degree. What started off as a small blog in 2006 has become a hub for entertainment, style, news, weddings, lifestyle and more.

Pedro, 33, is inspired by the vibrant energy of Lagos, Nigeria and the entire African continent. From the hard-working people paving their own destinies to the way they use wit and humor to share stories and experiences, Pedro feeds off of all of it.

Growing up, Pedro says, she was given the freedom and bandwidth to confidently explore the options for her future. As a child, there weren’t many educational limitations in her household. She and her siblings had ample access to books, magazines and newspapers. In other words, knowledge seeking was always encouraged. Her list of accomplishments has grown long as a result of this early thirst for knowledge.

In 2017, the BellaNaija team completed the Stanford Seed Transformation Program. They then expanded one of the platform’s key brands into a standalone site, BellaNaijaStyle.com and the brand partnered with the United Nations Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights for an awareness campaign. Currently, Pedro and her team are working to further build out BellaNaija Weddings, as well as other yet-to-be-disclosed additions to the empire.

Pedro believes that African women are the bedrock of community. If you ask her who her mentors are, she will readily name her mums Rita Amina Eze and Justice Jumoke Pedro, and her sisters. (That is, in addition to God and her husband, Bode.) Historically, women have been agents of change and transformation for good in their communities and she firmly believe in continuing the trend.

                                  Pearl Thusi

Pearl Thusi
When LL Cool J and Chrissy Teigen began to rope in U.S. audiences with Spike TV’s Lip Sync Battle (an evolution of Jimmy Fallon’s late-night segment), it was bound to go international. Lip Sync Battle Africa, one of nearly 15 global spinoffs, is recorded in Johannesburg with star hosts of their own: Denrele Edun and hometown representative, Pearl Thusi. Thusi, nicknamed “The Real Black Pearl,” is an actress, model, radio and TV personality who calls KwaNdengezi in Durban, South African home. In addition to aping up African talent on a main stage for MTV Africa and e.tv, the 29-year-old talent is also a presenter on Moments South Africa, which is broadcasted on Ebony Life TV. In the past, she has co-hosted Live AMP and the SABC 1 celebrity gossip magazine show, “The Real Goboza.”

Aside from her hosting roles, the WITS Business School and University of South Africa graduate has made significant moves in the television and film realms. Her first career propelling moment came in 2003, when she was a contestant in Miss Teen South Africa. She would go on to lend her talents to the popular local soap opera, “Isidingo,” and tapped into the international market for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency with Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose. Then came a role in the film, Tremors 5: Bloodlines. In 2017, Thusi relocated to the Big Apple to star alongside Priyanka Chopra, Aunjanue Ellis, Blair Underwood and more on the ABC series, Quantico, her biggest role yet.

Thusi’s skill set does not end there. In addition to her work behind a microphone, she is a beauty and hair care entrepreneur who founded the Black Pearl Collection, an emerging line of natural hair products. And with an enviable mane of her own, she has also graced the covers and pages of Jet Fashion, GLAM Africa, and the South African legs of Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Women’s Health and GQ. Whether it is on screen, between pages or in your bathroom cabinet, Thusi’s influence is bound to reach you.

Jackie Aina
Jackie Aina

Professional makeup artist and Youtube glam guru Jackie Aina creates content specifically for women of color. She launched her YouTube channel in 2009 to fill the void that she saw in the beauty industry and to do her part to shift existing, narrow standards of beauty. From product reviews to contouring tricks, the Nigerian-American Aina’s tutorials are the total package—witty, entertaining and informative and easy to follow. This year she won the NAACP’s first-ever YouTuber of the Year award and spoke at the YouTube Brandcast event on the importance of representing women of color in beauty. But beyond teaching and entertainment she’s using her voice and talent to promote inclusion, like working with Too Faced Cosmetics to further develop their Born This Way foundation line with deeper and darker shades.

She’s also not afraid of a little confrontation in the name of advocacy. She’s taken Kylie Cosmetics to task for allegedly excluding darker-skinned bloggers from her product sample mailings, and accused Huda Cosmetics of pandering to women of color solely to grab their share of the profit. “I'm tired of being ignored. I have dark skin. I'm going to talk about it sometimes. If you don't like it, watch someone else," she said according to Elle. "When we celebrate each other's differences and acknowledge them instead of pretending they're not there, we actually get more accomplished."

Sometimes caught in the social media race for followers, Aina has had to clarify her purpose a time or two. Although she’s got more than two million subscribers, she is clear that it’s not about numbers, it’s about the impact on the community. “I feel like we should uplift black creators in other ways like engaging with their content more frequently instead of subtly and constantly reminding them of how far behind they are, as if they can help that,” she tells Teen Vogue. "You can honestly be poppin with 50K subscribers."
Adesua Etomi

As Nollywood’s business continues to boom, so does Adesua Etomi’s career. The popular actress, now 29, hails from Owerri, Nigeria and is the child of a soldier and a civil engineer. She took to acting at a young age, opting to join her elementary school’s drama club at seven years old.

And five years later, a relocation to the United Kingdom prompted her career on stage and in front of the camera. First she studied Performing Arts, Musical and Physical Theatre at The City College in Coventry, England, then went on to earn a B.A. in Drama and Performance from The University of Wolverhampton.

During her theater days in the UK, she performed in numerous plays including "The Crucible," "Miss Saigon," "Jesus Christ Superstar," and "The Grimm Tales,” before moving back to Nigeria some years after graduating from college. There she continued to make a name for herself in theater. However, it was Knocking on Heaven’s Door, her 2014 debut feature film, that put her on the fast track to becoming a Nollywood star. New eyes followed her as she began starring in TV shows like Brave, Gidi Up Season 2, Special Crimes Unit: Las Gidi Cops, and joined the cast of MTV's HIV/AIDS edutainment series, Shuga 4. Her resume now includes roles in feature film such as Falling, A Soldier’s Story, Out of Luck, And the Spirit Slowly Dies, Ayamma: Music In The Desert and 10 Days In Suncity.

It was only a matter of time before she began to collect praise and awards for her moving on-screen work. Between 2009 to 2016, Etomi took home the Foresight Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Devised Piece of Work, the Nollywood Reinvented Award for Best New Actress, a Golden Movie Award for Discovery of the Year, an ELOY Award for Actress of the Year (Big Screen), and the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Award for Best Actress in a Drama. Her latest work, Memoirs of 4 (produced by Aarinola Odimayo and directed by Alex Mouth) arrives this year, we can only wait to see how she continues to make waves in Nigerian entertainment and beyond.

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