More than Just Miss Manners Walethia Aquil lives out her company’s calling



Imagine you are headed into a business meeting. A lot is riding on this meeting, and you want to make sure everything goes smoothly. You arrive, shake hands, and put on your most winning smile. At this moment, you discover to your horror that there is a large piece of something stuck in the teeth of the person with whom you must spend the next hour. What will you do?

If the scenario detailed above makes your cheeks flush and your palms sweaty, then perhaps you’d be interested to learn that a local Flushing businesswoman can help you acquire the business etiquette skills you need to succeed. Walethia Aquil founded Grace and Charm Academy many years ago to help “transform professionals from invisible to impeccable,” and she will unveil her company’s new look in 2014. Walethia’s journey to who she is today – a lady who radiates joy and confidence – will inspire you to step out with courage and follow your dreams.

Walethia’s Story

Walethia was born on July 4, 1950 in Atlanta, GA. Her parents took part in the Great Migration, moving to Flint in 1953 to work in the factory. As the oldest of four sisters, Walethia remembers being the black sheep of her family – literally. “Obviously, there is a historically rooted stigma against dark-skinned women,” she says, “but this bias is prevalent in the black community as well. I had darker skin than my sisters, and I grew up believing – because it was implied in my circle of acquaintances – that this feature made me less desirable.”

Walethia says that her lack of self-esteem directly influenced the decisions she made early in her personal and professional life. As a result of the negative voices surrounding her, Walethia was painfully shy all through her adolescence. “I had no self-confidence,” she says looking back, “and I made such bad decisions as a result of this.” When she was just 16, Walethia found herself pregnant. “I had a child with a boy from high school. He was popular and I had wanted to gain his approval,” she remembers. Although she married the father of her daughter, Walethia’s relationship with him lasted less than a year. This man was the first of three husbands who would abuse her, the third of whom she was married to for over 17 years. “I felt that I couldn’t walk away, even if I was in pain,” she confessed, “because people would blame me. Being married three times, my family told me that I was the defective one if I called it quits.”

Walethia remembers how a broken home life and low self-esteem affected her career aspirations, as well. She worked at General Motors for nearly two decades, but her heart wasn’t in it. “I was obsessed with beauty and charisma,” she says, “so when GM offered a buyout, I took it and followed my dream.” Walethia went to finishing school, and even began modeling. “That was the first I can ever remember being called pretty,” she says, “but I didn’t believe it.” As a devoted beauty aficionada, Walethia opened her own salon in Flint, the city’s first full-service African American salon. Her success, although brilliant, was transient. “Every day was a fight,” she says of the abuse in her married life, and eventually, the stress of an unhappy personal life affected her business to the point that she was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Finally, Walethia broke her silence about what was happening at home. “I said to myself, ‘I refuse to go through this hell behind closed doors,’ and I got out.” She walked away with only the clothes on her back, and worked two jobs to get by. “This was one of my life’s lowest points,” she states. Realizing that she needed help, Walethia began attending therapy sessions and was diagnosed with manic-depression, also known as bipolar disorder. “Self-sabotage had undercut every project I ever started,” she says, “and I never knew why. One moment I was on top of the world – heck, I earned a pink car as a Mary Kay consultant – and the next moment I was at rock bottom.” Therapy helped Walethia regain control of her life, and when she met husband number four, Ken Aquil, she knew that this marriage was for life. “I could trust myself to choose him, and I could trust him to value me,” she says of her relationship. “He is my best friend, lover, and business partner all rolled into one.”

Living with Grace and Charm

Still, life wasn’t perfect. “I am proof that no matter what your age, you can always start over,” Walethia laughs as she thinks about her business. “My husband had trouble with his business partner, who left him with a lot of debt. We knew that we would not be able to retire and coast through life as we had expected, so at the age of 50 I had to go back to work. I looked around at prosperous people and asked myself, ‘What is it about successful people that makes them successful?’”

Then, Walethia had an epiphany: grace and charm. “I became grace; I became charm, because I recognized those attributes as the keys to success, and I realized that they are missing from the personalities of struggling professionals,” she said. These two characteristics, Walethia points out, are powerful because they are outwardly focused.

As the president/CEO of Grace and Charm Academy, Walethia has built herself up by building up others. She offers personal coaching and mentoring through a proven program that helps people gain the confidence and poise to achieve their big dreams. In 2014, she will begin formal classes through Grace and Charm Academy. “I am humbled by the opportunity to speak into my client’s lives. I know from experience that words are powerful. They can make or break a person,” Walethia says.

Living by the two qualities of grace and charm, Walethia has skyrocketed herself to international acclaim. She is a notable businesswoman, coach, speaker and author: she has written a book, titled Women Who Win: Business Etiquette that Leads to Triumph in Life and in Business, and coauthored three others. Most recently, she was named 2013 Girl Advocate of the Year and 2013 Amazing Woman of the Year by Stiletto Woman Magazine, one of the premiere magazines for women in the professional world. Of her success, Walethia says with signature grace, “I’m just Walethia… but I help make other people’s lives better.” For personal help with your professional struggles, email this graceful businesswoman at

P.S. As for the scenario detailed at the beginning of this article, Walethia says that the kindest thing to do is to gently make the person aware of the… err… “something” stuck in their teeth as soon as possible. “Whatever you do,” she says, “be discreet, and they will surely thank you for looking out for them.”


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