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Sierra Leone’s Famous Personalities

Ok, let us try an experiment. If I ask you to think about a famous person from Sierra Leone, who comes to mind?

If you are local, or are familiar with our country, I am sure some names will come to your lips. In most cases, however, you probably will not know of any famous Sierra Leoneans.

Well, guess what? We are here to change this! Keep reading this article to learn about 8 famous people from Sierra Leone – from the past and present, male and female, from Freetown or beyond. Did we forget anyone?

1. Idris Elba

Let us start with the one and only Idris Elba! Idris is famous for being an actor, musician, and DJ. He was raised in London, and his parents had previously immigrated from Sierra Leone and Ghana. He has starred in countless movies – some of the roles he is best known for are the dealer Stringer Bell in the HBO series “The Wire”, and DCI John Luther in the BBC One series “Luther.”

However, his most acclaimed performance was as Nelson Mandela in the 2013 historical film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”, for which he received several awards. He was also touted as a potential replacement for Daniel Craig in the iconic role of James Bond – what do you think, will we have a Sierra Leonean Bond in the future?

2. Eugenia Osho-Williams

From an actor to an athlete! Eugenia Osho-Williams is a Sierra Leonean sprinter and the first woman to represent Sierra Leone at the Olympics. She competed in the 100 meters sprint at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Sierra Leonean athletes have since competed in several editions of the Olympic Games, however, they are yet to win any medals. Let us keep our fingers crossed for Paris 2024!

3. Frances Tiafoe

American tennis player Frances Tiafoe also has Sierra Leonean roots. He was born in Maryland in 1998 to Sierra Leonean parents, who had recently immigrated to the US.

In 2022, Tiafoe achieved a remarkable feat by defeating Rafael Nadal at the US Open, advancing to the quarterfinals, but he sadly lost the semifinals. Thanks to Tiafoe, tennis is becoming increasingly popular in Sierra Leone!

4. Maria Bradford

Maria Bradford was born in Freetown, but has lived in London for many years. She is a very popular chef and has established herself as the visionary behind Shwen Shwen, a catering company specializing in Sierra Leonean and Afro-fusion cuisine.

In 2023, she made her debut as an author with the release of her cookbook, “Sweet Salone” – if you follow our newsletter, you will already know about her! She is part of the new generation of chefs spearheading the diffusion of creative West African cuisine in Europe and beyond.

5. Michaela De Prince

Michaela De Prince is a famous ballerina with dual American-Sierra Leonean citizenship, who is currently dancing with the Boston Ballet. She was born in Kenema and was orphaned during the Civil War and was later adopted by an American family.

She rose to fame as one of the stars in the 2011 documentary “First Positions”, following a group of ballerinas as they make their way into the world of professional dance.

6. Franklyn Ajaye

Ajaye is an actor and stand-up comedian, born and raised in Brooklyn by his Sierra Leonean father and American mother. He is known as ‘the jazz comedian’ for his style reminiscent of a jazz performance in stand-up comedy.

He has also starred in several movies and TV shows, also gaining an Emmy nomination.

7. Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah is a Sierra Leonean writer and human rights activist, famous for being the author of the acclaimed memoir “A Long Way Gone”, about his experience as a child soldier during the Civil War.

Beah is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, aiming to amplify the voices of children affected by war.

8. Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna is a Scottish and Sierra Leonean writer, who spent time living in Freetown in the 1920’s. She is a famous writer, best known for her memoir “The Devil that Danced on the Water”, about her father’s execution.

She is also an academic and teaches creative writing and has worked for the BBC as a reporter and documentary maker. She was also one of the writers for the movie Girl Rising, sharing the stories of 10 girls in 10 developing countries. Forna wrote from the point of view of Mariama, a woman who studies engineering and wishes to promote higher education to young girls, historically underrepresented in universities around the country.

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