Iya Rainbow (Real Name: Esther Idowu Philips, Born on: 16 October 1942; Age: 80 years old) is a Nigerian veteran actress, movie producer, director, and healthcare assistant. She is best known for her roles in “Back to Africa” (1997), and “Lagidigba (2000).
Iya Rainbow as she is popularly called is one of Nollywood’s biggest stars. Despite arguments and debates about the age of the industry, it has nevertheless groomed a good number of actors like Idowu Phillips who have gone on to become icons. With a career that spans over five decades, Idowu Phillips is still acting and advancing her career even as she ages graciously.
Iya Rainbow Hails from Ogun State, SouthWest Nigeria
Mama Rainbow is presently 80 years old. She was born Esther Idowu on October 16th, 1942 in Odogbolu Ijebu in the popular town of Ijebu Ode, which is located in Ogun State, Nigeria. Iya Rainbow was raised in a Christian home with her father being recognized as a Prophet Jacob Adebanjo Ifemade of Cherubim and Seraphim Church. She was the only female child of her parents and growing up among her male siblings made her tough.
As per her education, Iya Rainbow attended African Methodist School and Anglican Modern School for her primary and secondary education, respectively. After successfully completing her secondary school education, she secured admission to study at a nursing school and later graduated as a certified nurse.
Her Real Name is Esther Idowu Phillips
Iya Rainbow’s real name is Esther Idowu Phillips. Her stage name “Iya Rainbow” is the English translation of “Osumare” (which means rainbow in English). Iya Rainbow got her stage name from the name of the theatre group owned by Sir Herbert Ogunde, a Yoruba actor, playwright, theatre manager, and musician with whom her late husband, Augustine Ayanfemi Phillips, worked closely.
The Osumare group was the hottest group in town at the time, specializing in entertaining Nigerians. However, the group’s popularity faded after its owner as well as Iya Rainbow’s husband died.
Iya Rainbow began her Acting Career in the 90s
Iya Rainbow started her acting career in the 90s after about twenty years of working as a nurse. She worked as a healthcare assistant in general hospitals in Nigeria and occasionally acted in her husband’s theatre before deciding to quit her nursing career to focus on acting.
Iya Rainbow ventured into full-time acting after the death of her husband. She began by working part-time with her husband’s theatrical group called Osumare Theatre; gaining mastery of the art. She later took over the leadership of the group which soon became defunct.
Joining the entertainment industry at the age of 45, Iya Rainbow took part in many movies both English and Yoruba. Her first set of movies was Aje ni Iya Mi and Eru. In 2017, she was featured in a documentary shot by her son Femi Phillip. The documentary was about Moses Orimolade, the founder of Cherubim and Seraphim.
She has Since Appeared in Many Movies and Received Multiple Awards
Iya Rainbow may have started acting at a relatively old age but she has since built an enviable career. Some of her biggest works include Becoming Abi. This is a 2021 Nigerian sitcom series created by Bolu Essien and inspired by the true life events of Bolu Essien in the Nigerian advertising industry. The drama series came in six parts and was released on Netflix on 28 October 2022. It has Iya Rainbow sharing the screens with the likes of Bolu Essien, Biodun Stephen, Stan Nze, Akah Nnani, Seun Ajayi, Juliana Olayode, and others.
In 2019, Iya Rainbow also appeared in the crime action comedy film, Sugar Rush, which was written by Jadesola Osiberu and Bunmi Ajakaiye and directed by Kayode Kasum. Sugar Rush also featured notable young actors such as Adesua Etomi, Bisola Aiyeola, and Bimbo Ademoye. The film was a box office success and became the fourth highest-grossing Nigerian film of all time.
For her decades-long impact on the Nigerian movie industry, Idowu Phillips has received a number of notable awards including the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 2017 City People Entertainment Awards and the 2022 Africa Movie Academy Awards. The thespian has also earned several endorsements from various brands such as Airtel and Ayoola foods. She is also an ambassador for Yotomi Golden Estate, a low-cost housing estate project initiated by the late movie mogul, Alade Aromire.
Iya Rainbow was Married to the Late Phillips Idowu
Iya Rainbow’s husband is the late Augustine Ayanfemi Philips. Prior to his death, Augustine was known to be passionate about arts and he closely worked with the late patriarch of the Nigerian Film Industry, Sir Hubert Ogunde. He was also a lecturer at the University of Lagos and an actor.
Iya Rainbow got married to her husband, Augustine Ayanfemi Phillips in 1960. She was just 18 years old at the time and they went on to build a good marriage. They were blessed with five adorable children. Her husband also introduced her to and encouraged her passion for arts and theater.
Iya Rainbow and her husband lived together as a couple for about 24 years before he died in 1984. It has been over three decades since then and Iya Rainbow has yet to openly date another man. Perhaps she chooses to remain a widow and focus on her career as well as her children.
Meet Mama Rainbow’s Children
Nollywood thespian Iya Rainbow is blessed with five children. Amongst them is a son named Femi Phillips who is based in the United Kingdom. He is also said to have followed his parents’ steps in filmmaking. He is an actor and scriptwriter best known for Yoruba movies like Alamu se’ni yan, Odunmbaku; Elepo robi; and Anikulapo among others.
Iya Rainbow also has another child named Olabisi who is inclined toward filmmaking. Another of Iya Rainbow’s children is the late Sola Osborne. Sola also loved filmmaking but later answered the call of God to become a prophetess of the Cherubim and Seraphim church. She served God for several years before her death in 2016.
As a widow, Iya Rainbow trained her children by herself. Things were quite difficult for her but she persevered. She took any role no matter how low-paying so as to be able to raise her children. Gracefully, they are all grown up and doing well for themselves in their various career. They have also not forgotten their mother’s sacrifices.
In June 2022, one of Iya Rainbow’s children gifted her a well-furnished house. The actress wept in joy when she returned home from abroad to meet an already furnished house built for her by her children. It was indeed a dream come true for the thespian.