History is repeating itself for African talent in Hollywood with the 2014 Academy Award nominations announcement. Kenya’s Lupita Nyong’o and Somalia’s Barkhad Abdi both scored Oscar nominations for supporting roles in movies. This comes a decade after Charlize Theron and Dijimon Hounsou first made history in 2004 for being the first African-born woman and man to be nominated for an Academy Award in the same year. What notable Hollywood stars were born in Africa? Here’s a cheat-sheet of 10 Africans to watch in Hollywood.
Born in Somalia in 1985, Barkhad Abdi came to the U.S. at age 14 after spending his early years in Yemen. A taxi driver in Minneapolis until answering a casting call for a Tom Hanks movie, he made his screen acting debut acting in the 2013 action thriller “Captain Phillips.” It earned Abdi a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Not bad for a first try!
Although she was born in Mexico City in 1983, we include Lupita Nyong’o on this list because her parents were living as political refuges in Mexico and she returned to Kenya before her first birthday. Nyong’o was nominated for a Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” — her American film debut.
Winner of the 2004 Best Actress Academy Award for her role in “Monster,” Charlize Theron was born in South African in 1975. She spent her childhood on her parents’ farm in Benoni, near Johannesburg, but left when she was 16 to begin a modeling career in Europe. One fact you might not know about Theron: her mother shot her father in 1991 and the courts ruled it self defense.
Discovered on the streets of Paris in the 1980s, Djimon Hounsou was born in Cotonou, Benin in 1964. He is an actor and model who gained fame in the U.S. playing Cinque in the 1997 Steven Spielberg film “Amistad,” for which he earned an Academy Award nomination in 2004. At the time he was just the fourth African male to have been nominated.
Hakeem Kae-Kazim first gained fame in the U.S. for his role in the critically acclaimed 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda.” Born in Nigeria in 1962, he was classically trained in acting in the U.K. before moving stateside. Other notable film and TV credits include “Pirates of the Caribbean III,” “Lost” and “Law & Order: SVU.”
Born in Ethiopia in 1978, Liya Kebede was listed by Forbes as one of the world’s top-grossing models in 2007. Kebede began her modeling career in France before moving to New York City to pursue acting. Her film credits include “Lord of War,” “The Good Shepherd” and upcoming features “The Being Experience” and “419.”
Born in the DRC in 1997 and abandoned by her parents as a kid, Rachel Mwanza is proof that you can prevail past your circumstances. She lived on the streets of the capital, Kinshasha, for a few years before being discovered and cast in the 2012 Canadian drama, “Rebelle: War Witch.” It was filmed mostly on location in the DRC. In February 2013, Mwanza visited the U.S. for the first time when granted a visa to attend the Academy Awards for which “Rebelle” was nominated in the foreign language category. The film didn’t win an Oscar, but Mwanza picked up Best Actress awards at the Berlin Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and the Canadian Screen Awards.
Miles Anderson was born in Zimbabwe in 1947 when it was still Rhodesia. Anderson’s father was a major general in Ian Smith’s army until he was removed by the then-prime minister in 1964 for opposing the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. The Anderson family left the country two years later and Miles now lives in Los Angeles. He has racked up more than 70 acting credits for TV and movies, mostly playing supporting roles.
Arnold Vosloo was born in Pretoria to stage-actor parents in 1962. Although he began his acting career in South African theater, he graduated to Hollywood films. His credits include “The Mummy” (1999) and its 2001 sequel, “The Mummy Returns,” as well as “Blood Diamond” and the “Darkman” series among others. He has also appeared in popular TV shows such as “24.”
Fans of the ABC Family drama “Pretty Little Liars” will recognize Pieterse as Alison DiLaurentis, the show’s dead protagonist or villain, depending on your perspective. Pierterse was born in Johannesburg in 1996 but moved to the U.S. at the age of 3. She has been acting since she was 4, beginning with commercials. At age 6 she landed her first co-star role as Buffy in the Warner Bros. comedy series, “Family Affair.”