Her effort as a strong advocate for the rights of women and adolescent girls, including their rights to education, access to reproductive healthcare and information, caught the attention of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). And so UNFPA named Stephanie Okereke-Linus as the Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal Health in West and Central Africa.
For many, that was a huge peep for the award-winning actress, producer and director, who has undoubtedly devoted her time and resources to advocating for the rights of women and adolescent girls, as evidenced in her second feature film as a director, titled, Dry.
Produced in 2015, the movie told the story of millions of young girls in Africa who are forced to be child brides. In the film, which was declared the Over-all Best Movie at the 2016 edition of the African Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) and the Best Narrative Feature at the 2016 edition of the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, United States (US), Stephanie put the spotlight on the sorrow, pain and health complications that arise from child marriage in northern Nigeria.
Though produced in 2015, the movie is still touring festivals and earning Stephanie great accolades and awards for its production and focus on the disturbing issue of child marriage. One of such recognition came during the week for the diva with an infectious personality.
The English and Literary Studies graduate of the University of Calabar and head of Next Stage Production, under which she directed her first feature film, Through the Glass, was on Tuesday in Los Angeles inducted into the ‘Blacks in Cinema’ hall of fame.
She received a special recognition award at the presentation held at the Los Angeles City Council Chambers as part of the official opening ceremony of the Pan-African Film and Arts Festival and in commemoration of the Black History month from the City Council’s President, Herb Wesson, who, according to agency report, kicked off the Black History month by honouring actors and filmmakers that paved the way for people all walks of life to be represented in film.
An elated Stephanie said after the award presentation that she was honoured about the recognition. “I am very honoured about the recognition. It is always a good feeling to see your hardwork yielding good results.“One of my biggest desires with Dry was to tell a story that would make positive impact in our society and I am glad that years after it was released, the movie is still doing just that. It warms my heart to see the positive global response this movie has gotten.”
Scheduled to be re-screened at PAFF 2019, after it featured at the 2016 edition, the movie stars celebrated actors, such as Liz Benson, Olu Jacobs, Darwin Shaw and Ibrahim Fagge. Stephanie also featured in the multi-nominated and award-winning movie that has screened in several festivals in the US, United States (UK) and in Canada.
A gifted talent, Stephanie came into limelight after she interpreted delightfully the role of ‘Crystal’ in that multi-award winning film, Emotional Crack, which also gave the actress, Dakore Egbuson, her break in moviedom. Then, just fresh from graduate school, the one-time 2nd runner up of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant triumphed well and above her seemingly insuperable odds.
She bumped herself into that lead role, that of a wife who was battered by her husband beyond recognition and who walked into being a lesbian by no fault of hers. Her fans said she played the role so well that it was difficult to separate her from the role.
Stephanie emerged best actress of the year 2003 at the now rested REEL Awards and the premium actor, Norbert Young, defended Stephanie’s wining that year, insisting that of all the entries for the award of best actress of the year, the model and later day director stood out.
According to Young: “Stephanie performed with credulity, great aplomb and confidence well above the other nominees; hence our decision to name her the best actress of the year 2003.” That defence and the award was all the lanky alumnus of the New York Film Academy needed to engage the turf squarely. An actress who almost fell a victim of career imposition because her parents wanted her to be a lawyer, Stephanie had always wanted to be an entertainer, an artiste of some sort. She showed unrelenting interest in drama while at St Bridges Secondary School in Asaba, Delta State, where she had her secondary education. It was while there that her interest in acting heightened.
From St Bridges, she was admitted to study English and Literary Studies at the University of Calabar in 1998, the same year she featured as a supporting actress in two of the movie sectors offering for that year, Compromise and Waterloo. Her appearance in Waterloo, directed by Teco Benson, marked the beginning of the road to fame for the tall and pretty Stephanie, the sixth child in a family of eight, who took a break from schooling and acting to contest in the 2002 MBGN pageant.
Star of other hit flicks, such as Terror, Private Sin, More Than A Woman, Queen Sheba, Together As One, Deep Love and Strength Of A Woman, her participation in the pageant helped to build her confidence.
The star, producer and director of Through the Glass, a film that unarguably inspired the recent premiere and cinema screening tradition in Nollywood, Stephanie returned to the movie soon as she was through with the pageant, gave acting her time and since then, there has been no stopping Stephanie, who is one of the most sought-after actresses on the turf.