Claire Edun, from Winchester, Hampshire, became interested in the language – a version of English spoken in West Africa – after visiting the country through work.
Her almost-flawless use of the dialect led to her being scouted by one of Nigeria’s top directors and she has now become a hit in the country’s flourishing film industry.
The 31-year-old’s new movie has become such a success that she is now famous with cinema-goers in the African state and has been nicknamed Oyinbo Princess – meaning ‘White Princess’.
She admits that tredding the red carpets of Lagos is a million miles from the village pantos and school plays which she first acted in, but she has grown a love for Nigeria, which she now considers a home from home.
Claire Edun told a reporter:
‘It’s very weird. I still have to pinch myself sometimes and remind myself that this is actually happening.
‘When I am in Nigeria, people often recognise me and stop me for selfies. Even in London the other day, I was stopped by a Nigerian in Woolwich and asked for a photo.
‘One of my first memories of acting was of me on a stage in a panto in a community hall in Titchfield, a small village in Hampshire, so I’ve come a long way since that.’
After working in Greece, she got a job as an air hostess and says she ‘fell in love’ with Africa while stopping there overnight between flights.
Claire Edun says she starting swapping routes with other stewardesses so that she could visit Nigeria as much as possible and became interested in its films and music.
‘I lived in Peckham [south London] which is like little Africa and got to know pidgin by watching subtitled Nigerian films and listening to songs.
‘I was so impressed with Africa because I had always been told that it was this dangerous place where everyone was starving and I guess I just believed that.
‘But when I started visiting I discovered it was the most amazing place, people are so friendly. You have to be careful about your security, but it’s not all Boko Haram like we hear in Britain.’
She posted a video of herself speaking pidgin on Facebook which was shared by a friend and seen by a top director in Nigeria, Lancelot Imasuen, who was hugely impressed with how she spoke.
He got in touch with her and made her the star of a hit romantic comedy, ATM, alongside one of Nigeria’s most famous actors, Alexx Ekubo.
The film is about a Nigerian man who plans to use an English girl as a route out of the country, but learns to love his homeland through the eyes of his new wife.
The 31-year-old grew up in Hampshire, performing in village pantos. She said: ‘It’s about a British girl who comes to Nigeria and marries a Nigerian man who wants to live in Britain.
WHAT IS PIDGIN ENGLISH?
Pidgin began when European traders started visiting the West African coastline to barter for slaves in the 15th century.
Similar to Creoles found in the Caribbean, it spread as English became a language of prestige in colonial times.
In a country whose inhabitants speak a hundreds of different dialects, it is used as a lingua franca, or bridge language.
Widely-used phrases include ‘How you dey?’ (how are you?), ‘I dey fine’ (I’m okay) and ‘wahala’ (problem).
‘It’s got some good messages in it, like having pride in where you come from rather than thinking the grass is always greener elsewhere.’
Claire is herself married to a Nigerian man, Richard Edun. The couple tied to knot four years ago with photos showing the bride wearing both a traditional white gown and African wedding robes.
The actress now divides her time between her home in Portsmouth and Lagos, where she attends film premieres and has become a hit with the country’s media.
Claire Edun added: ‘My parents are obviously really worried about me every time I come over here. My dad especially, he’s always looking at the Foreign Office advice online and telling me which areas I can and can’t go.
‘But they know I’m following my dream and so understand.’
Her film has become such a hit that a UK premiere is planned for the Nigerian community in London.
Claire and her husband Richard wore both British and African outfits for their wedding four years ago.