Deportment: Know how to ‘talk the talk’ and ‘walk the walk’

They may have the designer frocks, but few of them know how to walk elegantly or indeed talk elegantly

David Rigby
David Rigby - Special to Al Arabiya News
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It’s now the winter holiday season, and just like in the UK and USA, here in the UAE you see the girls dressed in impossible heels and wearing designers while staggering to various social venues. One difference here is that, in general, they are not freezing to death on the way to their chosen location.

They may have the designer frocks, but few of them know how to walk elegantly or indeed talk elegantly. There is an old British expression “You can take a girl out of Essex, but you can never take Essex out of the girl.”

This is because they don’t know about Deportment.

Way back in the early 1960s there was a developing record business called Motown. Based out of a house called “Hitsville USA” in Detroit. In those early days one of several vocal groups was called The Supremes. They were often known as the ‘no-hits’ Supremes as at the time every record had flopped.

But like everyone else in the Motown roster, they went to American etiquette instructor and talent agent Miss Maxine Powell to learn about deportment.

And this is what The Supremes learnt
• Perform in front of the mirror – see how you look
• Sing with a smile – not like you are in pain
• Learn how to sit on a barstool elegantly, walk stairs, get out of cars
• Always introduce yourself first, then the visitor introduce themselves
• Never see anyone for 20 minutes after a show
• Continue to grow until there is no breath in your body

In England you were taught how to handle a dazzling array of cutlery in case you went to an exclusive dinner. But the main message in all of this that you will know what to do when you meet the Queen of England.

And this is the message.

That group of three lean individuals from low grade subsidised government housing in The Brewster Projects went on to become worldwide stars. 12 number one hits in USA in three years. That was just the start.

And in 1965 they performed at Britain’s prestigious Royal Variety performance and indeed met the Queen of England.

And they knew how to conduct themselves! Years of lessons about deportment both on and off stage meant they knew exactly what to do. As did many other stars in the Motown roster which included Martha & The Vandellas, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder – all megastars in their own right. I first saw Stevie Wonder perform when he was 14.

For those who don’t remember The Supremes you may know their lead singer, Diana Ross. In a recording career spanning almost 50 years she sold over 140 million records and is still performing to great reviews today while in her seventies.

But what distinguished them from the rest? In many cases they were the first black girl groups to break into the largely white supper clubs and TV shows. Sure, they can sing, but they could also put on a good show, deal with the audience and not be scared of anyone.

Why could they do this? Because they had deportment.

In the old days in Britain, the rich girls ‘came out’ (different meaning today!) after going to finishing school. They learnt how to walk in heels with a set of books balanced on their heads. These days you can record yourself, take selfies, and video yourself moving around. So observe and improve – sometimes you can’t see it yourself but a coach can help you.

Just putting someone in a posh frock and high heels doesn’t work. To again quote Margaret Thatcher: “If you have to tell people you are a lady – then you aren’t”.And all this applies in a slightly different way to the guys too!

Both need to both ‘talk the talk’ and ‘walk the walk!’

Learn all the skills before it really matters – and when time comes you can walk into the audition or job interview an unknown and come out a star!

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