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Patricia Ngozi Komlosy OBE (née Ebigwei; born 3 May 1954), known professionally as Patti Boulaye, is a British-Nigerian singer, actress and artist who rose to prominence after winning New Faces in 1978 and was among the leading black British entertainers in the 1970s and 1980s. In her native Nigeria she is best remembered for starring in Lux commercials and Bisi, Daughter of the River, as well as her own series, The Patti Boulaye Show.
Her stage name is said to have been inspired by the actress Evelyn "Boo" Laye.
Boulaye was born after her mother went into labour in a taxi that was passing through two towns in Mid-Western Nigeria and was raised in a strict Catholic household with nine children, including airline pilot Tony Ebigwei, who was killed in the Nigerian Airways plane crash of 1978. She is of Igbo origin. As a teenager Boulaye survived the 1967–70 Biafran war and attributes this to her strong faith.
At the age of 16 she left Nigeria for the United Kingdom where she decided to become a nun but, during a sightseeing trip in London, Boulaye stood in a queue for, what she assumed, was Madame Tussauds but turned out to be an audition for the original London production of Hair and soon won a part, which launched her career in musicals. Her father, who did not approve of showbusiness, disowned his daughter but later forgave her.
After Hair, she featured in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, but landed her first starring role as Yum Yum in The Black Mikado under her birth name, Patricia Ebigwei. Critic Tony Lane wrote: "Patricia Ebigwei's version of 'The Sun whose rays...' is, in the words of the Gramophone reviewer of this recording, the performance against which all others must now be judged. It is one of those remarkable interpretations that makes (sic) all others pale and unsatisfactory by comparison. No G and S lover is unmoved by this sensational piece of music making. Her version is a slow, erotic, languid ballad of vanity and sexual self-satisfaction that makes the conventional renditions seem prissy and just plain silly."
Other stage productions she has starred in include the title role in Carmen Jones (at London's Old Vic Theatre, in a production directed by Simon Callow) and Jesus Christ Superstar. In 2003 Boulaye launched her West End musical, Sun Dance, which took twelve years to put together. Hailed as a celebration of "the colours and music of Africa in a display of ceremonial dances, rituals and initiation ceremonies, all played out to the beat of African drums". It was written and produced by Boulaye herself and opened at the Hackney Empire. Boulaye featured in an excerpt from the show forming part of the interval act at the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest, staged at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.
Following the 2017/18 sell-outs of her show “Billie & Me” the award-winning Patti Boulaye, returns to the stage, with her brand new one-woman show “Aretha and Me"
In 1978, now with several years of experience under her belt, Boulaye appeared on New Faces, where she was the only contestant in the series to be awarded maximum points by the judges, and would later win the All Winners Final Gala Show. Patti played the part of Charlotte opposite Lenny Henry in The Fosters, Dempsey and Makepeace, and Brothers and Sisters. In 1984, she had her own series, The Patti Boulaye Show on Channel 4. The Christmas special, which featured Cliff Richard, was a ratings success and an album was released in conjunction with the screening of the series.
Patti has made over 200 TV appearances including Royal Command Performances at the London Palladium. She starred in (12) of BBC TV’s annual “Joy to the World” Christmas programme, produced by Major Sir Michael Parker KCVO CBE at the Royal Albert Hall, with Sir Cliff Richard, Roger Moore and other internationally acclaimed stars. In the Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Birmingham by BBC TV, Patti lead her 'Sun Dance' troupe of dancers in a fiery African dance to 'Jupita' from Holst's 'The Planets'. She appeared in two episodes of "Pointless". Patti appeared as a contestant in a series of BBC's very popular 'Celebrity MasterChef' and later in an episode of BBC One's 'Money For Nothing', and Channel 5's "When Talent Shows Go Horribly Wrong".
In September 2018 Patti launched her internet streaming chat show “Life With Patti Boulaye” in which she encouraged celebrities and successful people from all walks of life to share with her and her audience challenges they had overcome in their life career and how they had endured difficult times to show young people that difficulties can be surmounted, but it may not be easy.
In January and February 2016 Boulaye appeared in the three-part BBC series The Real Marigold Hotel, which followed a group of celebrity senior citizens, including Miriam Margolyes and Wayne Sleep, on a journey to India.
July 2018 Boulaye devised and hosted her TV chat show series "LIFE WITH PATTI BOULAYE" which is recorded and streamed Worldwide by Disruptive Live TV. Life with Patti Boulaye`` is the result of Boulaye's concern about the alarming state of the mental health and suicide rate among our young people. Boulaye's show hopes to encourage fortitude, • “Life is tough but we can be tougher” • “There is no such thing as a free lunch in life” • “There is always ‘Hope'” • “Suicide is not the answer.” • “Success comes from hard work.” • “Failure and Success are good bed fellows.” Guests on the show are from all walks of life and are encouraged to share some of the challenges they have faced, to explain how they overcame them and give a few words of advice and wisdom. "Life with Patti Boulaye" starts the second series of the programme in 2020.
Boulaye had a starring role in African movie Bisi, Daughter of the River (1977), which was said to be the biggest grossing African movie ever made, running in the cinemas in Nigeria for three years. She starred in The Music Machine – billed as the British Saturday Night Fever – in 1979, and also appeared as a cabaret singer in the 1980 Helen Mirren movie Hussy.
Boulaye's victory on New Faces led to the release of the 1978 album You Stepped into My Life. Prior to this, she had spent a year touring and releasing several singles with a British-based American girl group.
Boulaye is the founder and president of the charity "Support for Africa Charity", which has built five clinics in rural Africa and a school with HRH Prince Harry's Charity, "Sentebale", in Lesotho.
The 1980s saw an increase in fitness awareness and Boulaye was among the celebrities whose voices featured on the Shape Up and Dance keep-fit albums. In Africa, she was the face of Lux for 29 years, The Patti Boulaye Show was shown on several NTA stations, and in 1999 she was invited to sing for Olusegun Obasanjo during his inauguration. In 2002 Boulaye was appointed to the Entertainment Steering Committee for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and led 5000 gospel singers down The Mall in the celebrations singing songs including "Celebrate Good News", especially written by Boulaye for the occasion.
Boulaye's autobiography, The Faith of a Child, was published in March 2017.
In 2017 Boulaye was awarded Visiting Teaching Fellow Middlesex University Business School Faculty of Professional & Social Sciences. She was made a Freeman of the City of London and in 2018 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree for services to the Arts and Education by the Joint Council of Churches.
Boulaye is the Founder and Managing Director of BIPADA Academy www.bipada.com which has an enviable list of experts on Life Skills, Emotional, Social, International Etiquette and Personal Development. Bipada helps clients build self confidence and turn their lives around. Bipada has held etiquette programmes at Oxford University, Middlesex University, Central London and Buckinghamshire. She is a Champion and Patron of The Arts Award UK and a Patron of Eastside Educational Trust. Boulaye has been a member of the Board of Governors of The British American Drama Academy (BADA) which is affiliated with Oxford University and Yale University in the US. For the past seven years she has been a visiting lecturer at Middlesex University to final year students at the Business School Faculty.
Public Speaker & Events
Boulaye is a regular inspirational speaker, with over 100 engagements notably including guest speaker at the Women Federation For World Peace (WFWP) Conference held at the House of Lords, compering and singing at the Rotary International “East Meets West” Celebration Variety Show at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Patti was invited by Dr Bodeker of Green College, Oxford, as president of Support for Africa to speak at the Conference for the Worlds Scientists on ‘The Use of Herbal Medicine in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS’. As a Peace Ambassador she was a guest speaker at the Universal Peace Federation Conference at Abuja. She was also guest speaker at RSA’s ‘Women in The Big Society” debate and lots of other speaking engagements.
Boulaye has starred several times in “Music on Fire” the Fireworks Proms at Sandhurst. As a guest of Michael Jackson, Patti attended and sang at his 45th Birthday Celebrations in LA. Patti has sung at prestigious events including Wembley Stadium for the England V France football finals.
Boulaye’s own events at the Royal Albert Hall for her personal charity, Support for Africa, were so successful that she was invited to join the official Golden Jubilee Entertainment Committee for Her Majesty The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. As a member of The Committee she got together and led a 5000 strong gospel choir for the 4th June Jubilee procession down the Mall in front of Her Majesty the Queen in 2002. She wrote a song “Jubilee Song (Celebrate Good News)” as a tribute to Her Majesty, which enabled the 5000 singers to dance and sing during the procession. “Boulaye and her choir put on a truly amazing display as they joined thousands of other performers in front of over two and a half million crowd, the world’s press and media and the hundreds of millions of people who tuned in to their televisions to watch the climax to the Jubilee Weekend Celebrations”.
Boulaye was the Face of Lux Soap for 29yrs in Africa.
In 1999, Boulaye, then a supporter of the Conservative Party, attracted criticism. Later that year, Boulaye successfully sued The Guardian for libel after the paper wrongly quoted her as saying "This is a time to support apartheid because it's unfashionable"; she later stated she had been set up by a reporter who claimed to have misheard her when she referred to "a party" (The Conservatives) as opposed to "apartheid". The Guardian was later forced to pay £15,000 in damages.
She defended fellow Conservative Jeffrey Archer after he made alleged derogatory comments about black Britons. During a radio interview, he stated: "[Three decades ago], your head did not turn if a black woman passed because they were badly dressed, probably overweight and probably had a lousy job." Boulaye defended Archer, stating: "I am talking as a black woman who knows Jeffrey Archer very well ... and he is not a racist. I think he would make a very good mayor."
A devout Roman Catholic, Boulaye has two children and a grandson with husband Stephen Komlosy.
- Patti Boulaye (1976)
- You Stepped into My Life (1978)
- The Music Machine (1979)
- Magic (1981)
- Patti (1983)
- In His Kingdom (2004)
- Patti Boulaye's Sun Dance [album] (2004)
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