Breakout Nigerian artist Tems attended her very first Grammy Awards last night. The 27-year-old musician—who, last year, worked with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Drake, and Future—was up for multiple awards, including Best Melodic Rap Performance (for her collaboration with Future) and Album of the Year (through her featured appearance on Beyoncé’s Renaissance). “I’ve never been in the same place with so many artists in one space before,” Tems says, speaking to Vogue on Monday morning, from her hotel room. “People coming together to celebrate work and art.” 

Tems hails from Lagos, Nigeria, but she says the American music ceremony carried poignant significance throughout her childhood in the country. “Back in the day, the Grammys were definitely an event,” Tems says. So attending the ceremony was a full-circle moment. For the personal milestone, the artist opted to wear a gold gown, designed by British label Vivienne Westwood, that incorporated a va-va-voom silhouette, a corset, and criss-crossing pearl necklaces and straps. Tems, whose full name is Temilade Openiyi, calls the look the perfect mix of “soft, but sultry.” 

She says she was particularly drawn to wearing a Vivienne Westwood design in light of the label’s namesake and founder’s recent death at 81. “There were other options — but I just thought it was so special,” Tems says of the dress, which was completed two weeks before last night’s ceremony. “I really wanted to wear Vivienne.” 

According to Tems, the look neatly aligns with her penchant for duality. “I feel like I’m feminine. But I think everyone has some type of ratio of feminine and masculine energy,” she says. “Mine just switches out sometimes. Sometimes I’m more feminine, sometimes I’m more masculine. I like to express that in what I wear.”

Inside the star-studded ceremony, Tems nabbed her first Grammy during the pre-televised segment. A cherry on top: meeting a personal idol. “I met Mary J. Blige,” Tems says, awe filling her voice. “I used to listen to her when I was 13 or 12 like… a lot.” She takes a moment to consider what her former-self might think of the meaningful run-in. “I come from Lagos and, at that time, there was no way I thought I would ever meet her. That was very cool.” 

Tems is fast becoming a continent-spanning star in her own right. She is from the lush cultural capital of Lagos, Nigeria, which has become an incubator of exciting, fresh-sounding afrobeats stars like Wizkid and Davido. In 2020, from Lagos, she released her debut EP For Broken Ears— which spawned the hit single “Free Mind.” Three years later, Tems has a serious chance of nabbing the Academy Award for “Best Original Song” as a songwriter on Rihanna’s Black Panther 2 anthem “Lift Me Up.” 

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