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For bringing a unique verve and talent to the big screen thereby earning honours for Nigeria and Africa in a continent often seen in negative light; for following the music of his heart and becoming a trail-blazing inspirational star for the nation and continent’s youth to emulate, Chiwetelu Umeadi Ejiofor, OBE, is The AUTHORITY Icon
He is a child of destiny. In 1988, when he was 11, during a family trip to Nigeria for a wedding, he and his father were driv­ing to Lagos, after the celebrations when their car was involved in a head-on crash with a lorry. His father was killed, but he survived. He was badly injured, and received scars that are still visible on his forehead. Meet Chiwetelu Umeadi Ejiofor, OBE
Chiwetelu Umeadi Ejiofor was born on July 10, 1977, in Forest Gate, London, England, to Nigerian (Igbo) parents, Obiajulu (Okafor), a pharmacist, and Arinze Ejiofor, a doctor. He at­tended Dulwich College in South-East London. By the age of 13 he was appearing in numerous school and National Youth Theatre productions and subsequently attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
In 1996, he caught the attention of Steven Spiel­berg who cast him in the critically acclaimed Amistad (1997) alongside Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins. He has since been seen on the big screen in numerous features including Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things (2002) (for which he won Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards, the Evening Standard Film Awards, and the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards), Love Actually (2003), Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda (2004), Kinky Boots (2005), Inside Man (2006), Children of Men (2006), American Gangster (2007), and Talk to Me (2007), for which his performance won him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor.
He has balanced his film and television com­mitments with a number of prestigious stage productions. In 2008 his performance in the title role of Michael Grandage’s “Othello” at the Don­mar Warehouse alongside Ewan McGregor was unanimously commended and won him best actor at the 2008 Olivier and Evening Standard Theatre Awards. He also received nominations in the South Bank Show Awards and the What’s On Stage Theatregoers’ Choice Awards in 2009. His other stage parts include Roger Michell’s “Blue/Orange” in 2000 which received an Olivier Award for Best Play, and the same year Tim Supple’s “Ro­meo and Juliet” in which Ejiofor took the title role.
Following his television debut in 1996, in Screen Two: Deadly Voyage (1996), Ejiofor has compli­mented his film and theatre work on the small screen in productions including Murder in Mind (2001), created by the award-winning writer An­thony Horowitz, Trust (2003), Twelfth Night, or What You Will (2003), and Canterbury Tales (2003). His television appearance in 2006’s hard hitting emotional drama Tsunami: The Aftermath (2006) alongside Toni Collette, Sophie Okonedo and Tim Roth earned him a nomination for a Golden Globe Award as well as an NAACP Image award.
He also appeared in such notable films as End­game (2009), Channel 4’s moving drama set in South Africa for which his performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Per­formance by an Actor in a Miniseries; Roland Emmerich’s action feature 2012 (2009), opposite John Cusack, Danny Glover, and Thandie New­ton; andSalt (2010), opposite Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber. In 2013, he starred in Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) and 12 Years A Slave (2013), receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the latter film. He was honoured with a Global Promise Award by The GEANCO Foundation, a non-profit welfare organisation in West Africa for his charity work in Nigeria.
He was awarded an Officer of the OBE by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the arts and was elevated to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2015 Birthday Honours. His younger sister is CNN correspondent Zain Asher.