Women have been largely underrepresented in the film industry for many years, but over the years, several women have taken the bull by the horns and are now making all the relevant noise. Shonda Rhimes, who has produced hit shows such as political thriller ‘Scandal,’ medical drama series ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ and thriller series ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’ and Issa Rae, who has produced Insecure and ‘Awkward Blackgirl,’ among many others, are among these women on the international stage.
Back in Kenya, women in film, both on and behind the camera, have paved the way for many more women to get into the industry. Among these women actresses; Catherine Kamau, Mumbi Maina, Sarah Hassan, Lupita Nyong’o, and many others. Here, we look at 11 stand-out talents who continue to shatter the glass ceiling in the film industry. The list is not in any particular order.
Mumbi Maina has actively starred in both local and international films since her acting career began in 2009. Her most well-known role is Zakia in Netflix’s science fiction series ‘Sense8.’ Ellstar, from the 2021 film ‘The Matrix Resurrections,’ is another international role she is known for.
Catherine Kamau (Kate Actress)
She made her acting debut on the family show ‘Mother-in-law,’ where she played Celina. Kate won the coveted Best Actress in Film award for her role in ‘Nafsi’ at the recently concluded Women in Film awards. In 2017 and 2019, she received two Kalasha awards for her performance in ‘Sue na Jonnie.’
Kate has also acted in Netflix’s romantic comedy ‘Disconnect,’ as well as ‘Plan B,’ which won the Best East African film Award at the 2020 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards.
Sarah Hassan began her acting career on Citizen Tv’s ‘Tahidi High’ as ‘Tanya.’ She went on to star in a number of films, including ‘Demigods,’ ‘Saints,’ and ‘Changes.’ She has recently appeared in the Netflix films “Just in Time,” “Plan B,” and Citizen Tv’s drama series “Zora.” During the 2021 Kalasha awards, she won two best lead actress awards for the films “Just in Time” and “Crime and Justice.”
Matubia was recently recognized for her role in Citizen TV’s telenovela “Zora” in the category of Best Actress in TV Drama.
She has also appeared in the Netflix original series ‘Sincerely Daisy.’
Lupita Nyong’o is an internationally renowned actress who began her career in Kenya as Ayira in the film ‘Shuga.’ She has since appeared in a number of well-known films, including ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Black Panther,’ and ‘Us,’ among others. She won an Oscar for her role in ’12 Years a Slave’ in 2014, in the category of Best Supporting Actress. Without a doubt, Lupita Nyong’o is one of the renowned Kenyan actors and actresses doing big things in Hollywood. She was born in Mexico but grew up in Kenya; therefore, she possesses dual citizenship. Her father is a well-known politician, Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o, who is the reigning governor of Kisumu County. Ms Nyong’o is the second child out of six children.
Lupita Nyong’o holds a bachelor’s degree in film and theatre studies which she obtained from Hampshire College. She also has a Master’s degree in acting from Yale School of Drama. The talented actress started working in Hollywood as a production assistant. The first major break that put her in the spotlight was her role Patsy in the famed historical film 12 Years A Slave (2013) that won her the coveted Oscar award. Since then, Lupita’s star has continued to shine brighter, and she has been featured in many prominent roles in several award-winning movies. Some of the films include East River (2008), Shuga (2009-2012), Star Wars sequel trilogy (2015-2019), Queen of Katwe (2016), Black Panther(2018), and Us(2019).
Her performance as a Kenyan immigrant in the Greek/Kenyan road film ‘Return Of Lazarus’ earned her the Best Actress award at the 2020 London Greek Film Festival. She has a long list of credits, including ‘House of Lungula,’ ‘Makutano Junction,’ and ‘How to Find a Husband,’ among others.
Yasmin is a rising star who recently landed a major role as the lead actress in Citizen Tv’s ‘Maria’ series. She won Best Lead Actress in TV Drama at the Kalasha Awards in 2020 for her portrayal of Maria.
Sheila Mulinya is a Kenyan film and television producer, director, and screenwriter. She won Best Documentary Producer at the 2022 Women in Film Awards for her work on ‘Tahidi High,’ ‘Inspekta Mwala,’ and ‘Mother-in-Law.’ She has produced over 70 documentaries and shows, including the Churchill Live Show, and has written scripts for popular Kenyan television shows such as ‘Tahidi High’ and ‘Mother-in-Law,’ among others. She received the award for Best Producer Documentary at the recently concluded Women in Film awards.
Dina Mwende took home the award for Best Producer (Film) at the 2022 WIFAs. She is best known for her work on the Kenyan films ‘Nafsi’ (2021) and ‘Shujaaz TV’ (2014).
Oprah Oyugi’s name is backed up by a lot of experience. She worked as a unit manager on the award-winning feature film ‘Supa Modo,’ as a writer on ‘Lusala,’ which premiered at the 3rd NBO Film Festival, and as a producer on ‘Country Queen.’ She is also a writer, director, and editor for her short film, ‘The Better Option.’
Ambrose was recognized as the Best Newcomer Producer (Film) in the category. She has appeared as an actor in a number of films, including ’18 Hours,’ ‘Sense 8,’ and ‘Selina.’ She is also the Founder and Director of Kipawa Hub, which “provides a safe and free space for the youth to discover and nurture their talent and skill while fighting stigmatization by bringing the community together and assisting the youth in regaining self-confidence.”
Christine Wawira might not be so famous locally, but she is a Kenyan actress based in the United States, making a living from her professional acting career. Wawira, born on December 20th, 1987, relocated to London with her parents and younger sister in 1994. She has appeared in over 13 films, with her most prominent roles being on Flash, Blacklisted, East African Girl, Night Call, and Sign of the Dragon.