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Patti Boulaye on "traumatic childhood" and new book

REGAL: Patti Boulaye OBE (photo credit: Omenka)

"WHY WOULD I wind down? I’ve only just begun.”

Those are the ominous words uttered by Patti Boulaye when questioned about why she isn’t sitting on a beach somewhere enjoying the endeavours of an active life. Her response is typical of a woman who is doing her best to ‘buy her way into heaven’ and of a woman whose existence has known no bounds.

From being born in a taxi between cities to accidentally stumbling upon a singing audition that would ultimately kick-start her career as a singer, actor and entertainer, Boulaye has quite literally done it all.

“I suppose I had what people would call a traumatic childhood, but it was a childhood steeped in love as well,” Patti told The Voice's Life and Style section.

She added:

“The surroundings and the situations were traumatic, but the family were close. When I was two, my parents had a terrible divorce and then we were thrown into political upheaval because my mum got married to a politician as we were fighting for our independence in Nigeria.”

HONOURED: Patti Boulaye with her OBE in 2016 (photo credit: Naija Diva)

Born in the south of Nigeria, Boulaye says that in getting through that tumultuous time, there was a particular memory that has shaped who she is to this day.

“I was left at school by the lady who used to give me a lift each day, at the age of nine,” Boulaye says.

“I had to walk home on my own, around 11 miles and that day, I saw how God worked miracles in my life.”

Boulaye describes seeing child abuse, a man being burned alive for stealing and young girls like her selling oranges to make a living during the walk home. It was an experience that affirmed her faith in God and is to this day one of reasons she fears nothing.

At the age of 17, Boulaye's life changed when came to London and made her West End debut in the musical Hair. She also featured in Two Gentlemen of Verona and her first starring role was as Yum Yum in The Black Mikado, blazing the trail for other black performers in the burgeoning British entertainment industry of the time.

She came to prominence as a singer, winning the British ITV talent show New Faces, where she made history by becoming the only contestant ever to receive the maximum 120 points from the tough panel of judges.

TIMELESS BEAUTY: Patti Boulaye OBE (photo credit: Cross Rhythms

Thumbing through her autobiography, The Faith Of A Child, available from 10 March, Boulaye's book is awash with stories that will move and motivate the reader. It’s hard not to be completely in awe of her journey and incessant zest for life and it’s no surprise that she was awarded an OBE last year.

“To get an OBE was incredible, because I have always seen myself as an African, and I didn’t think it was something that was given to African people, so it wasn’t on my radar,” she says.

“I also thought you had to be born here to actually receive honours. That’s just how I saw it.

“So, on my birthday, for my husband to say to me, ‘I’ve got a surprise for you’, and then for him to say that I had an OBE, my response was, ‘What’s that?’.

“I wasn’t thinking it was an actual OBE – I thought it was an abbreviation of the present he had got for me. He said it was a real OBE – an investiture.

“I asked what for, and he told me it was for charitable work in Africa and the UK.

“I was blown away. It took a long time for that to sink in.”

FAITH OF A CHILD: Patti Boulaye OBE (photo credit: ES)

Typically, Boulaye is intent on using her OBE as a tool that will further help her to help others. Even at 63 years of age, having lived the fruitful and exhaustive life she’s lived, Boulaye says she dedicates her time to making the world a better place – and she’s not slowing down.

“One of the things I want to do is hold a monthly workshop aimed at young people, teaching them about growing up and navigating the world,” she says.

“I want to teach them about not listening to political correctness. I want them to appreciate the truth and not wanting lies. Not necessarily hearing what you want to hear, but hearing what’s good for you.”

Before that, however, Boulaye will be performing in her new show, Billie and Me, in which she parallels Billie Holiday’s life with hers, singing some of the great Billie Holiday songs and her own. The show will debut at The Pheasantry in Kings Road, London on 9 and 10 March. Yet another example of her quenching an unrelenting thirst for life.


Life and Style have got their hands on a copy of The Faith Of A Child, along with two pairs of tickets to give away for Patti Boulaye’s show, Billie and Me, which takes place at The Pheasantry in Kings Road, London on 9 and 10 March.

To win either the pair of tickets or a copy of the book answer the question below:

At what age did Patti Boulaye make her West End debut in the musical Hair?

A. 17
B. 21
C. 12

Send your answer, whether you want the book or the tickets, name, telephone number and address to: before 12 noon on 8 March 2017.

If you don't wish to be contacted for marketing purposes after the competition has closed, please let us know in your email.

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