Who is Naomi Ackie? Meet the Oscar tipped actress starring as Whitney Houston in upcoming biopic

After her appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Naomi Ackie has caught the public's attention

Who is Naomi Ackie?
(Image credit: Lia Toby/Getty Images/Future)

The much anticipated Whitney Houston biopic, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, came out in December and everyone's talking about the film's star, actress Naomi Ackie, who has been nominated for a 2023 BAFTA award.

British actress Naomi Ackie has some big shoes to fill. Playing Whitney Housten is no mean feat - the singer was, and still is, a global icon beloved by millions. But Ackie shouldn't be worried, she has a myriad of experience and if she looks familiar to you, that’s because she probably is, having recently starred in a string of popular films and TV shows.

Naomi Ackie was born and raised in the London borough of Walthamstow, England. The 30-year-old has Grenada roots, with her family heritage lying in the island country in the West Indies, and her father worked in transport while her mother worked in healthcare.

Speaking to ELLE, Ackie said that was very shy as a child, but discovered her love for acting at age 11 and would participate in school productions.

Naomi Ackie

(Image credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Ackie's acting career has been a huge success. She made her big TV debut on Doctor Who in 2015, playing Jen, after starring in a short film earlier that year called I Used to be Famous. 

Since her debut, Ackie has been cast in a variety of TV shows and movies. Most famously, she starred as Jannah in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and was also featured in Netflix’s comedy drama series, The End of the F***ing World.

Naomi Ackie

(Image credit: Joe Maher/Getty Images)

Does Naomi Ackie have Instagram?

Naomi Ackie is not on any social media platforms. Naomi was previously on Instagram but her account appears to have been deleted. The actress has never commented on why she chose to leave the platform.

How did Naomi Ackie become Whitney Houston?

Naomi Ackie has previously opened up about the difficulties of getting into her role as Whitney Houston in the upcoming biopic. Appearing on the chat show, Lorraine, she revealed, 'Part of my fear going into the role was that I don't look anything like her. But they just said to me: 'look - you just concentrate on her essence and we'll sort everything else out."'

To become the legendary singer, Ackie underwent a huge physical change that involved dialect lessons, a wondrous 90s wardrobe, and plenty of wigs. The actress said she loved the wigs so much that she even took five of them home.

Appearing on Graham Norton on 16th December, Ackie admitted that she spent six months mastering Whitney Houston's American accent for I Wanna Dance With Somebody, but just when she had it down, she was back to square one and had to re-learn it after putting in fake teeth for the role. 

When Norton asked the actress if she found it hard to listen to Houston after making the film, she replied, "I had to take a break because I really was immersed in her world. But now I listen to her to remember some of the moments I had filming. It was such a formative time in my life and career that I look back on it fondly.”

Whitney Houston

(Image credit: Frederic REGLAIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Does Naomi Ackie sing in the Whitney Houston biopic?

No, Naomi Ackie does not sing in the Whitney Houston biopic. While Ackie managed to pull of the iconic look that Whitney Houston was known for, the singer's incredible vocals were more difficult to mimic.

Considering Ackie does not have an extensive background in music, the film's producer, Clive Davis, told USA Today that the singing voice will be that of the original pop diva. He said, “When it came to Whitney, we just didn’t think anyone could capture her vocal genius so it will be the Whitney voice in the film."

Whitney Houston

(Image credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

What will I Wanna Dance With Somebody be about?

According to IMDB, I Wanna Dance with Somebody will track Whitney Houston's "journey from obscurity to musical superstardom.” The site also shares that the film will be a “joyous, emotional and heart-breaking celebration of the life and music of Whitney Houston, the greatest female R&B pop vocalist of all time."

Sony Pictures, add that the biopic "will take audiences on an emotional, energetic journey through Houston’s career and music.” 

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Royal News and Entertainment writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for Goodto.com. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.