The Grass to Grace Story of Dr Helen Paul

With the confirmation of her Doctorate Degree by the Senate of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Akoka on Friday, 8 March, 2019, Mrs Helen Eniola Omonitan Paul Bamisile has become the first Nigerian stand-up comedian to make such achievement.

Despite her commendable status as an entertainer, Dr. Helen Paul seems unstoppable with her quest to achieve more academic success. In the entertainment industry where academic qualifications are considered second fiddle to fame and wealth, she has broken barriers to record an unprecedented feat among her colleagues.

The mother of two (Gbenro and Gbolahan Bamisile) has added a Doctorate Degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Lagos to four major Degrees in her kitty. Dr. Helen Paul got her first degree in Theatre Arts from UNILAG, promptly followed by Masters Degree in the same discipline and institution. In her unrelenting thirst for more awards, she bagged a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and Masters in Public Administration (MPA), all from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Oyo State.

Meanwhile, as inspiring as her success is, it wasn’t a smooth ride from the beginning. Many years ago, she got admission to study Performing Arts at the University of Ilorin. An elated Helen and her proud mother had shared the good news with their neighbours, but there was a problem –her parents could not afford the admission fees. When she eventually got to Ilorin, registration had closed. With the shame of going back home without the admission not an option; Helen decided to be lurking around the campus until she gets another admission.

Without no accommodation arrangement in place, Helen was about to pass the night in an open space with her luggage when a junior lecturer of the school identified as Mr Philips (now Dr Philips) walked up to her. “He told me where I planned to sleep was dangerous, and I explained my predicament to him, and out of pity, offered me a space in his apartment,” said Helen Paul. “Every morning, I will resume with him to the school and attend his classes. I would even write attendance. I did this for almost one year,” she reminisced.

Ironically, it was the same Dr Philips who supervised Helen’s Ph.D project. He had been transferred to UNILAG when the entertainer was in 200 Levels at the Lagos citadel of learning.  

With Dr. Helen’s busy schedule as a mother, stand-up comedian, actress and entrepreneur, coping with academics would not have been an easy grind. “I have been coping pretty well. My husband is not just a partner; he is like my father, brother and friend. I give all the glory to God for giving me a husband that is very understanding and supportive. The credit goes to him and God. He has been very supportive. He makes life very easy for me,” she noted.

Education and service to humanity are part of Dr Helen Paul’s passion. Aside upgrading herself constantly, she has also cultivated to the habit of impacting her knowledge on others –a major reason she floated the Helen Paul Theatre and Film Academy (HPTFA) in Ogba, Lagos State. When the theatre school was opened in 2014, she acknowledged that “The idea of establishing the school is to also give back to the society in a way. Many people want to study theatre, but they don’t have the privilege to be in the University. So with the efforts of our seasoned lecturers, we groom and nurture such people to stardom. Some educated people also have interest in theatre, so we create the platform for them to become stars, making good use of our contacts and affiliations among the crème-de-la-creme of the industry.”

She explained that the entertainment industry in Nigeria has no doubt become a force to reckon with nationally and internationally. The Film and Music sectors have reignited the pride of Nigeria all over the world. Nigerian entertainers are highly respected and regarded as worthy ambassadors. Besides, in a country where unemployment rate has continued to be on the rise, the entertainment sector has also proved its relevance by providing employment for a reasonable amount of youths by engaging them in productions and events on daily basis.

As a result of the boom in the entertainment sector, thousands of youths aspire to make a career in the industry, and this has subsequently given room for many charlatans and half-baked practitioners. “It is in view of this that Helen Paul Theatre & Film Academy decides to create a strong, credible and professional platform where aspiring entertainers can acquire their skills in different departments of the entertainment sector under the tutelage of seasoned thespians, and in a structured environment,” she added. 

As a little child, Dr Helen has always known that she would become a celebrity in future, but in what capacity? She simply has no idea. “I didn’t know what will bring the fame, but I just knew that I would be a star. I always tell my friends then that I would grow up to be a star,” she started the narration of her grass to grace story. 

Even when she was just a receptionist at Eko Reelmix Studio, she was quite confident of becoming a celebrity. After sometime, she started as a back-up singer and voice-over artiste, though comedy and acting would soon take over. According to Dr Helen, her success is God’s plan, and she worked relentlessly towards it.

“It was when I got admission into the University of Lagos that I discovered the comedy part of me. I actually went for a show, and the MC did not come, so my friends said I can do it because I’m a funny character. I eventually did it and it was awesome, and from there, people started calling me for shows and the money kept coming in. I had to stick to it and of course met the likes of Ali Baba and Basorge Tariah Jnr. who now enlightened me on the business part of the job. “Well, even from childhood, people always refer to me as a quirky and funny person. I have a teacher in school that doesn’t beat me at all because he saw that comedy trait in me. But professionally, I started comedy during my days as an undergraduate of the University of Lagos,” she concluded.

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