Temilade Openiyi, professionally known as TEMS, isn’t about fitting in — she’s in her own lane moving at her own pace.

The award-winning singer-songwriter and producer’s rise to fame in the music industry can be described as swift but not without grit, and she is just getting started.

TEMS arrived on the international radar after she featured on Wizkid’s song “Essence” — one of the biggest songs of 2021. Since then she’s held her own in the industry like a boss, moving from strength to strength.

Within a few short moments in the global spotlight, she cemented her spot in music history as the first Nigerian and female African artist to win the Best International Act at the 2022 BET Awards — proving that the world stage is exactly where she belongs. She is also the first Nigerian musician to debut at number 1 on the Billboard 100 chart.  

And have you watched the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer? Did you hear the cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”? That was TEMS, just in case you didn’t know. That’s right, her voice is part of the reason you were holding back tears on your third watch of the iconic trailer. You can also check out why we cannot get the trailer out of our minds here.

Ticket-holding Global Citizens will have the privilege of experiencing her rich, deep, and captivating voice live on the Global Citizen Festival: Accra stage at Black Star Square on Sept. 24 — find out here how you can earn your free Global Citizen Festival: Accra tickets. 

Together with Usher, Gyakie, Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, Stormzy, SZA, and Uncle Waffles, TEMS will lend her voice in support of life-changing causes such as empowering girls, defending the planet, and breaking the systemic barriers that keep people in poverty.

Global Citizen Festival: Accra is part of our End Extreme Poverty NOW campaign, and also builds upon Global Citizen's continued expansion of our pan-African movement. At the festival world leaders, activists, artists, and Global Citizens will come together to take action and make commitments for girls, for the planet, and to create change. 

In the spirit of empowering girls, we thought it essential to highlight the ways in which TEMS is an inspiration to young girls and women in Africa and around the world. Here are some key lessons we can learn from her. 

1. Be yourself, no matter what they say

Songwriting comes naturally to TEMS who uses it as a way to let out her feelings. When she moved back to Lagos from the UK after her parent’s divorce, she felt lonely in the new city. In those lonely moments music, songwriting, and poetry came to her rescue.

 “I just started writing songs, at around 11. Some of them were about me not having friends, and some of them were about my classmates saying I was weird. Some of it was just really sad. I didn’t really have much human interaction, but it helped me heal to be able to sing about what I was feeling,” she told the Guardian in a 2021 interview.

Despite the name-calling by her peers, she persevered and now the world gets to be blessed and inspired by her songs on so many levels. Just as she found healing in songwriting and poetry, she is extending that healing to the rest of us through her music. The lesson here is to remain true to yourself no matter the external pressures of life.

2. In the pursuit of your dreams, don’t do the ordinary

How many of us have given up on our dreams because we encountered one obstacle or another? If you are considering giving up on something you’ve been working on for a long while: Don’t! Do you know how TEMS got her accolade as one of the few female Nigerian producers? She decided to break the norm and made her own music rules. 

She took initiative and taught herself music production when she couldn’t afford the services of a producer for her debut single “Mr. Rebel”. Today, she is known to the world for her production prowess and has produced about 90% of her songs — that likely wouldn’t have happened if she gave into the frustration of not being able to afford a producer.

In her song “Interference” from her For Broken Ears album, TEMS says: “This is a mind with no frame” — meaning she puts no limit on her imagination or what she can do, and nor should you.

3. Do what you can to support humanitarian causes

TEMS wants to heal the world, and not just with her music. She also lends support to causes that change people’s lives. That is why she is part of this year’s Global Citizen Festival family, to raise her voice alongside Global Citizens all around the world, calling on our leaders to take action NOW to empower girls, defend the planet, break systemic barriers, and protect the rights of advocates and activists in the mission to end extreme poverty — but you already knew that. 

Meanwhile in 2020, during the height of the #EndSARS protests to end police brutality in Nigeria, she used her platform to encourage Nigerians on the ground, reassuring them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

You can also raise your voice in support of our End Extreme Poverty NOW campaign by signing up as a Global Citizen and taking action on the Global Citizen app or website to be part of the movement working to create lasting change. 

4.  ‘You are meant to be here too’

“Every single woman watching this, every single girl watching this at home — where I’m from, Lagos, Nigeria, this is a dream and as you are watching me I want you to imagine yourself as me, because you are meant to be here too.” This was TEMS’ speech after receiving her historic BET award for Best International Act this year.  

In dedicating the award to women and girls, TEMS recognises the barriers preventing young women in the music industry (and all industries), especially those in Africa, from realising their potential. Women who want to achieve their dreams across every sector and career path still grapple with issues such as sexual harassment, pay inequity, and discrimination, among others. She hopes her win paves the way for young women who dare to act on their dreams.

5. Keep hope alive

If there is any message TEMS wants you to take away from her music, it is that you shouldn’t give up hope and confidence in your abilities.  

“I want them to take away a sense of hope. I want them to take away confidence. I want them to be,” TEMS said, telling Vibe.com what she hoped her listeners would take away from her music. “It’s a sort of self-assurance that I’m not alone. I am who I am, and I’m going to do this.” 

Whether it’s standing for what you believe in or chasing a dream — this life can be a tough one to navigate. TEMS wants you, yes you, to find hope and assurance that your dreams, whether it’s to become a global superstar or to end extreme poverty, are valid and you too can make them happen. 

Global Citizen Festival is calling on world leaders, corporations, and philanthropists to do more than they’ve ever done before to End Extreme Poverty NOW. Through our global campaign and with stages in two iconic locations — NYC’s Central Park and Accra’s Black Star Square — we will unite leaders, artists, activists, and Global Citizens around the world on Sept. 24 to achieve an ambitious policy agenda focused on empowering girls and women, taking climate action, breaking systemic barriers, and lifting up activists and advocates. Wherever you are in the world, you can join the campaign and take action right now by downloading the Global Citizen app.

Global Citizen Life

Demand Equity

5 Ways TEMS Is an Inspiration to Girls in Africa and Around the World

By Betty Kankam-Boadu