Patti Boulaye, CEO, Bipada Academy

“The rules have evolved,” says Patti Boulaye, CEO of Bipada Academy, “and keeping up takes more than knowing which fork to use”. An international singer, former model and actress, Patti Boulaye (OBE), have mentored and built the confidence of men and women, helping them to make great changes in their lives with an accompanying sense of purpose, calm, clarity, contentment, freedom and happiness.

Patti Boulaye is mostly known for her illustrious international career spanning starring roles in Theatre, Films, and TV and the release of 8 albums. Apart from this endeavor which has brought her fame, Boulaye runs an academy called the Boulaye International Protocol and Decorum Academy,(Bipada) where she teaches etiquette. According to her, “etiquette does not start and end with using a fork and knife to eat”.

“For me, etiquette is the line of life; how you present yourself, talk, walk; the things that you do, spiritual and motion etiquette as well”.

Africa Executive spoke with Boulaye about how etiquette has evolved, and why there are not enough etiquette savvy Africans.

In 2011, you launched Bipada, an academy that provides advice on personal development and etiquette. What led to this?

I am a strong believer in people being the best version of themselves that they can be. Anyone can be rich, learn to sit up straight, use a fork and knife, meet and greet, etc. But walking on this earth as human beings demands more from us as spirit beings, and involves our mindset. That’s where etiquette (code of conduct) plays its most important role.

For over 30 years, I have been helpingpeople gain insights of the living pulse of tangible etiquette. This focuses on positivity, the development of the person as a whole and their attitude. These were always taught to private clients mostly whites and Asians and their children. A lot of Africans are misguided in thinking they do not need etiquette because they have only received the superficial definition of etiquette.

The Africans who seek to learn, would rather learn from a European. Every nation and race have their good and bad sides, but I believe Africans can teach Europeans a thing or two about life’s etiquette, i.e. being real, showing respect, consideration and having a sense of shame. Unfortunately, our children have not been taught or handed down these valuable virtues, but instead have been allowed to copy and emulate the worst of modern and popular culture of what we call the civilized countries.

A few years ago I was at an event where an etiquette trainer, who is quite popular with Africans, was telling jokes about how crude her African clients were, including the dignitaries. The only thing this self-appointed etiquette trainer had going for her, is that she is white. She had trained many Africans, including Nigerians and now they were the butt of her jokes at dinner parties. White skin does not equal etiquette, so I couldn’t really blame her, the ignorance is from her clients. She would have been more diplomatic and respectful if Bipada had trained her.

This is one of the reasons Bipada Academy was launched at Queen’s College Oxford University. The idea was to expand the services I had been providing to private clients for many years to reach more Africans. Those whose traditions should first be understood and respected in order to best impart the appropriate etiquette modus operandi.
Bipada Academy has world class Experts and Advisers some of whom specialise in Royal and Diplomatic Protocol.

We provide a unique practical and personal experience that transforms participant’s attitude in general. We also offer Phone Sessions and Advise on selected topics for difficult, personal or work place problems.

What is etiquette? And why is it so important? 

Etiquette is the rule of life that separates us from the animals. Etiquette is not about stiffening one’s neck while trying to appear important. It’s about consideration and respect for self and others. It’s about how to communicate in a way that makes you truly special and makes the people around you happy to be with you. That is the greatest polish and should begin with the spirit of the person, which then shows on the outer demeanor and results in the person’s happiness and general wellbeing. It is about being the best person you can be. It’s not about how well educated you are or how much money you have.

Every member of the British Royal family or other Royal families I have met, have been effortlessly charming. They know the importance and meaning of etiquette and they live it and wear it like second skin.

In this modern and crowded world, the hard skills of education are not enough anymore. Soft skills are highly valued in employees. Did you know that in India, more than half of India’s 3 million graduates take etiquette, manners, grooming, and courses in soft skills before they can graduate? That is a good example, which African countries, universities, and families must emulate. Parents in many Asian countries have recognized the need to put their children ahead of both internal as well as international competition.

Each year millions of students are graduating from universities into a tough market. Businesses are now inundated with job applications from graduates and this is where Indian universities are clever in pushing etiquette as an essential part of young people’s education. This explains why Asians are dominating the business world.

The knowledge of international etiquette and protocol had always been reserved for the upper classes and privileged few. Now, anyone can learn the essential codes of conduct. As well as the conventional form of education, it is wise to invest in a great start for your children and discover the joy of a confident, polite, and respectful son or daughter.

Knowing how to behave in any given situation will give your children confidence and put them in control of their environment. Gone are the days when we believed that straight ‘A’s are all our children needed to be successful and to get on in the world. Of course a good qualification and university degree is extremely important, just like being well presented and wearing a beautiful dress or a well-tailored suit. But it’s no good looking great if you are not aware that you have a body odour!

Good knowledge of etiquette is important for personal success in business, marriage, and all forms of relationships. There is no doubt that etiquette is paramount in all aspects of life. I will go as far as to say; God’s “Ten Commandments” are the most known and recorded life’s code of conduct (etiquette) for mankind.

Bipada Academy has helped so many people and looks to help more manage their own personal and brand reputation. Each one of us represents so many brands in our lives i.e. family, school, self, company, employers, employees, country, continent, race, gender, spouse etc.

Speaking from my personal experience, I can say that through education I learned how to read and write and gain information and many people can teach me that. But soft skills made me someone people respect and want to work with. Very few people can teach me those skills. That is what makes the soft skills of etiquette ‘ a must-have’.

Considering your previous work, why did you choose to focus on etiquette business as opposed to what you’re mostly known for?

I wouldn’t say this was focusing on etiquette business, especially as I have been doing this for a very long time. I do not like to be pigeonholed and therefore do not consider my singing to just be the only thing I am known for. I have done so many other works.

I have been involved, and I still am involved, in so many other hobbies and businesses. I am a producer, choreographer, public speaker, mentor, lecturer, seamstress, jewelry designer, mother, wife, grandmother, step-mother, step-grandmother, step-great grandmother, events/concerts organizer and patron of many charities. I am a Governor of BADA (British American Drama Academy) affiliated with Yale and Oxford Universities.

I am an Advisory Board Member of Iman Foundation Worldwide (a peace forum for ex-European Heads of States and Politicians). I’m a motivational and inspirational speaker, painter and many more. I have held over ten arts exhibitions of my paintings in London as well as promoting good behaviour and etiquette for over thirty years.

I am blessed with a life filled with gifts, most importantly a good upbringing, strong faith, singing voice, people’s skills and acting career,which has brought me before kings, queens and men of note and has given me first hand experience of different human behaviour. This in turn has placed me in the position to help others exploit their chances.

My charity Support For Africa has built healthcare clinics in Nigeria,and Cameroon and a school for HRH Prince Harry’s charity in Lesotho. So I am not just known for my singing. I am also a Visiting Teaching Fellow at Middlesex UniversityBusiness School Faculty of Professional & Social Sciences.

For me, the entertainment industry and etiquette go hand-in-hand. Both have helped me and taught me to touch the human spirit while spreading happiness. But it has been a tough training ground and a character building business! It is the kind of industry that can make or break you physically, mentally and spiritually. I thank God that it did not break me, but instead made me strong and opened many doors for me! I have always been at my happiest when I am enhancing and affecting other people’s lives positively.

And I am very proud of the important changes that have come about in my Bipada Academy clients. The change in attitude, thought process, confidence, outlook in life, demeanor, good behavior during personal, social, and business interactions, in both adults and children. A parent client of mine once said after a session with her precautious 10-year-old daughter; “I gave you my monster of a child and you gave me back an angel!” It can only be God! This is why I refuse to be small-minded, pigeonholed, or shackled to one form of career!

What’s your clientele like?

Oh boy, the list is long! My clients have come from all walks of life including; business men and women, diplomats and their wives, university students, charity workers, would be entertainers, children of entertainers, business executives, lawyers, personalities, potential leaders, School pupils of all ages, graduates and job seekers, families, expatriates, event organisers, couples, high-end executives, PAs & managers, hotel concierge and front of house staff, business women and other professionals looking to better engage with their clients and partners. 

How Etiquette savvy are Africans?

Unlike the Asians, there are not enough etiquette savvy Africans to make Africa look world class. There is a special humility and quiet dignity that comes with the social code of conduct and understanding of etiquette! The types of Africans I admire include the Former US President Barack Obama, Kofi Annan, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Sam Ikoku, Dr Margaret Ibru Founder of ST&T Regency Schools in Ikeja, Lagos. I’m sure there are many more, but I can only vouch for the people I have met and know. These are people with a good heart and a sense for decency.

Knowing how human mentality works; being black means we need to be much more etiquette savvy than the rest of the world. A mentally, physically, and spiritually polished black man or woman is like the brightest diamond among priceless diamonds. That’s how I imagine myself! Like a lot of black footballers, who have had to be better than their white counterparts to make the international Super Leagues! Bipada’s clients come to us to gain a good perception of all-around etiquette, to have a better understanding of self. If your etiquette comes from inside you, it brings power with it. It is easier for us to feel strong while mastering others, but mastering our self, maybe hard, but that is where the real power lies!

Where did you learn the etiquette rules you live by? 

I am very fortunate that my life and success has been lead by protocol. I have learned from my mother, brother, sisters, the Bible, my husband in particular, observing and learning from Directors of Royal and Diplomatic Protocol for two British Prime Ministers. I have also been in the position to learn from the right British elders and friends in the Royal family. You can’t go wrong with these. And it all just boils down to Respect and Consideration.

Personally, the awareness and grasp of real etiquette has been a great tool in putting me ahead of any competition. We all know that our thoughts become our words, this leads to our actions, our actions become our character, which forms our destiny!

Most etiquette trainers deal with outer etiquette only, like sitting, dining, dress code, meeting, and greeting, etc. As well as outer etiquette, I mostly prefer to deal with the inner etiquette, the soul, the very essence of the person, where God lives

Prior to that did you ever get stumped on an etiquette issue?

When I was a child yes! Luckily, I’ve had very few, if any, as an adult, at least not knowingly nor embarrassingly! I have a habit of asking what the correct code of conduct is when meeting The Queen, the Maharajah in India, Royals in Saudi Arabia, Japan, China and other countries.

What etiquette breach do you most dislike?

I most dislike a lack of self-respect. I also dislike a trainer talking about their clients in a derogatory and belittling way, even if they don’t mention their names, it still goes against what etiquette stands for. Etiquette should be executed with love, respect, and consideration.

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