Nollywood's Highest Grossing Filmmaker, Actor, and Politician, Funke Akindele

By Aisha Kabiru Mohammed | Jan 18, 2024

Olufunke Ayotunde Akindele-Bello, popularly known as Funke Akindele, is a Nigerian filmmaker, actor, producer and politician who has produced and directed the highest-grossing Nollywood films of all time.  She is also known as Jenifa for her role in a similarly named film. 

According to a biography on Akindele in Wikipedia, she rose to prominence after appearing in the popular United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-sponsored sitcom I Need to Know, which aired from 1998 to 2002. 

She portrayed Bisi, a curious and intelligent secondary school student. Funke Akindele's major break came in 2008 when she starred in Jenifa, a comedy-drama. The movie was nominated for four 2009 Africa Movie Academy Awards: Best Nigerian Film, Best Original Soundtrack, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role. 

For her performance in this movie, Akindele took home the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. After her role in Jenifa, Funke Akindele began to appear in more English films. Before then she acted in many Yoruba movies and produced some as well, Jenifa was mostly in Yoruba. 

She revealed in a July 2016 interview with The Cable that she would no longer be producing in the Yoruba film industry due to piracy. In the interview, she credited her development as an actress and producer to her working in the industry.

“I speak Yoruba and I got famous speaking Yoruba, I can’t forget the industry”, Akindele said.

In the same interview she spoke about the film school she had started at the time;

“I remember all my challenges as a budding actor, how many times I failed before I got a good role. So I decided to make life easier for the youths that are interested in acting, hence the drama school.”

Her success and talent as a storyteller became evident with Jenifa’s Diary. Akindele currently co-stars with Fisayo Ajisola, Falz, Juliana Olayode, and Aderounmu Adejumoke in the ongoing hit TV series,  Jenifa's Diary. The show is based on the film, Jenifa. 

In April 2020, Akindele and her husband, JJC Skillz, were arrested and charged with hosting a birthday celebration for her spouse during a coronavirus lockdown. She later starred in a film produced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to increase awareness about coronavirus. After pleading guilty to breaking the lockdown order, the actress and her husband were sentenced to 14 days of community service.

During the 2023 elections, Akindele was nominated as the Peoples Democratic Party (Nigeria) deputy governorship candidate in Lagos. Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, also known as Jandor, justified her nomination by stating that the actress will give more value to his campaign in the 2023 general elections. In announcing her campaign for deputy governor on Tuesday, the actress declared that her acting career must be "necessarily put on hold." 


Directorial Debut 

After she transitioned to English films, she appeared in other films besides Jenifa’s Diary.  Some of them include Moms at War, a 2018 comedy film starring Funke Akindele and Omoni Oboli. Akindele launched a new web series, Aiyetoro Town, a spinoff of her famous TV series, Jenifa's Diary, in July 2019. She was previously the CEO of Scene One Film Production. Her Excellency, a 2019 political drama film, marked her directorial debut.

The beginning of Funke Akindele’s career as a director and producer of English films started in 2023 when she announced the launch of her movie production company, the Funke Ayotunde Akindele Network( FAAN) The network had already produced, Battle on Buka Street, a comedy-drama film directed by Funke Akindele and Tobi Makinde before the official announcement of the launch of the company. 

The movie became the second highest-grossing Nigerian film of 2022 just behind Brotherhood grossing about ₦200,087,222 at the box office. The company also produced A Tribe Called Judah, the current culmination of Funke Akindele's work as a director and Filmmaker within 5 years of her career as a director. A Tribe Called Judah opened in theatres on December 15, 2023, and on that first weekend, the movie made over ₦113 million, making it the first Nollywood production to do so. At the box office, the movie became the first Nollywood production to gross one billion naira.

Akindele operates a non-governmental organization called the Jenifa Foundation, which strives to provide young people with practical skills. She has endorsement deals, such as being signed by Nike, an ambassador to Dettol and IrokoTV. In 2018, she was named a Keystone Bank brand ambassador.

In November 2019, she got an endorsement contract with Waw Nigeria, a detergent and bar soap manufacturer. Funke Akindele married Adeola Kehinde Oloyede on May 26, 2012. In July 2013, the couple split, citing irreconcilable reasons. In May 2016, Funke Akindele married Nigerian rapper JJC Skillz in London.

In August 2017, her pregnancy rumours were among the top Google search results. JJC Skillz announced the end of his six-year marriage to the famous actress on June 30, 2022, via his official Instagram feed. In December 2018, Funke Akindele gave birth to twin boys and has a number of stepchildren.

In a society that frowns on divorce and divorced women. She has stated in interviews that she does not see being twice divorced as a failure in an interview with Wazobia FM in Lagos. She said;

“If you ask me now, can you tell me one failure, I don’t see it as a failure. My personal life – marriage, I just take it as it comes. My mental health is very important. My career is very important, darling.”

Funke Akindele was honoured at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2021. Akindele has the most wins at award shows, including those from the AMVCA and the NEA Awards.