FACT CHECK: Tems is not the First Nigerian Female Artist to win a Grammy

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Claim:  Several news reports positted that Tems was the first Nigerian female artist to win a Grammy after her feature in Future's 'Wait for You' got her the Best Melodic Rap Performance award.

Verdict: FALSE 

She isn’t. Sade Adu is the first Nigerian female artist to win the Grammy awards. Adu is is of mixed parentage, her father being Nigerian and her mother being English. Tems’ father, on the other hand, is British.


Success, they say, has many friends and it is a common practice for Nigerians to celebrate their own whenever they achieve great feats, be it in sports, music, art, business, or literature.

Many Nigerians celebrated Temilade Openiyi, popularly known as Tems, after she won a Grammy award at the 65th edition held in Los Angeles, USA on 5 February 2023.

Tems won the award for her contribution to Future's hit single 'Wait For U'. 


Future, Tems, Drake ⓒNotjustok

Most of the reports released to celebrate her asserted that the victory made her the first Nigerian female artist to win the Grammy. The reports can be found here, herehere, and here

The need to set the records straight prompted us to verify this ascertain. 


Our research shows that the first Nigerian female to win a Grammy did so in 1986. Her name is Helen Folashade Adu, popularly known as Sade Adu. 

At the 28th edition that year, she got her first nomination and won the Best New Artist category.

Adu had eight Grammy nominations and won four during her career. 


If we are to consider all persons of Nigerian parentage, then Cynthia Erivo, now considered an English actress, singer, and songwriter bagged the Grammy award for ‘Best Theatre Album’ in 2017. 


Who is Sade Adu?

Sade Adu was born on 16 January 1959 in Ibadan to a Nigerian father and a British mother. She moved to England at the age of four after her parents divorced. Her father, Adebisis Adu is from Ikere Ekiti in Ekiti State, southwest Nigeria. 

Even though she has spent most of her life outside the country, she never denies being Nigerian, as she acknowledged in an interview she granted in Norway in 1984.

She explained the meaning of her Yoruba name in another interview with Diamond Life in 1985.

Sade Adu ⓒGetty Images

Who is Cynthia Erivo?

Cynthia Erivo was born in England to both Nigerian parents who separated when she was young.

Not much is known about her father but her mother, Edith, worked as a nurse and raised Erivo and her sister, Nicolette, in a single-parent home.

Erivo may not be a Nigerian by birth but she is definitely one by descent. 

Cynthia Erivo. ⓒmubi.com

She confirmed in a video interview with OkayAfrica that she is from Mbaise in Imo State and loves her Nigerianness.

An article written in March 2020 by The Guardian gave her full Igbo name as Cynthia Onyedinmanasu Chinasaokwu Erivo. 

Nigeria is the first country she identifies with, according to the biography information on her Instagram page.

Cynthia Erivo's Instagram Page ⓒInstagram

Who is Tems?

Born In Lagos to a British father and a Nigerian mother, Tems left Nigeria at an early age with her parents and returned at five when her parents divorced. 

In 2020, she confirmed in an interview with an online magazine, The FADER, that her father is British.

Tems. ⓒRCA Records

Our findings show that Adu and Erivo are of Nigerian descent and have never denied their ancestry

They also reveal that Adu, Erivo, and Tems all have Nigerian-British links, have parents who divorced or separated, were raised by their mothers, and have one sibling each.

In addition, Tems and Adu were both born in Nigeria, moved to the UK before they were five, and have a male sibling each. 


That Temilade Openiyi, also known as Tems, is the first Nigerian female artist to win a Grammy award is misleading.

Sade Adu is the first female Nigerian artist to win the award in 1986. She won three more times, the last being in 2013. After her, Cynthia Erivo won it in 2017.


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