Tems’ massive, cloud-like gown becomes the Oscars breakout star we didn’t expect

A woman in a voluminous white gown poses with one hand on her hip and the other at her shoulder
Tems strikes a post on the 95th Oscars’ red carpet, where her structured white gown played better than it did in the seats inside the Dolby Theatre.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Oscar-nominated musician Tems was an unexpected breakout star at the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday — and she didn’t even appear onstage.

Instead, the “Lift Me Up” co-songwriter caused a stir with the enormousness and perceived enormity of her Oscars gown. Specifically when glimpses of her seated mid-row in the Dolby Theatre set off spectators who sympathized with those who had the misfortune of sitting behind the view-obstructing garment. The discourse has been an assortment of sartorial praise, light-hearted memes and allegations of disrespect, with those putting the artist on blast being deemed racist.

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“I’m cryinnnnnnn,” music producer Alex Medina tweeted, sharing a TV clip of a woman behind Tems peeking around the garment. “tems got that lady fighting for her life”


The Nigerian singer’s cloud-like gown, which included a voluminous arc that went over and behind her head, was made by L.A.-based Ukrainian design house Lever Couture and styled by Dunsin Wright. The dress was showcased during fashion week in Tokyo last September and made a splash when Tems graced the champagne-colored carpet at Sunday’s Oscars in Hollywood.

While the show-stopping piece landed the 27-year-old on several best-dressed lists, it also took on a life of its own on social media, where the discourse focused on how it adversely affected Oscars attendees. Indeed, Tems was visible in several aerial shots inside the theater and when cameras panned across the room to show the audience. The woman peeking out from behind the singer also became something of an online celebrity as Twitter users empathized with her plight.

A woman in a voluminous white gown is seated among rows of red theater chairs
Tems at the 95th Academy Awards in the Dolby Theatre.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“you just know the person sitting behind her is so pissed,” BuzzFeed writer David Mack tweeted.

“Imagine the person sitting behind Tems all through the Oscars, definitely feel some kind of way. Like ‘this is disrespectful,’” wrote another.

“Tems said you don’t need to see no other bodyyy,” wrote an Instagram user weighing in on the moment.


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“Imagine waiting your whole life to be at the Oscars and you end up sitting behind a stratus cloud,” tweeted writer Jarrett Bellini, who was promptly shut down by Tems fans.

“Imagine waiting your whole life to be at the Oscars and having the Honor of Tems presence,” a fan replied.

A man onstage in front of a theater audience
Tems’ white gown can be seen on the left during host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, fans and fashion-philes continued to defend the singer (real name Temilade Openiyi) while others made light of the faux outrage.

“Someone wore a duvet to an event few days ago but Tems’ dress is where you all draw the line. Nonsense,” observed another.

“Tems didn’t win any Oscars but she’s still the conversation topic of the event, a queen,” added another.


“Tems dress was beautiful. Tems is drop dead gorgeous. Tems is my star girl and all that. Tems blocking people’s views with her dress was inconsiderate. People pointing that out is not racism as long as they aren’t using derogatory language. Humans need to be more honest,” tweeted another.

The Grammy-winning “Wait for U” singer appeared to address the brouhaha Monday afternoon, tweeting a simple “Ooops” to her 1.6 million followers. She accompanied the laconic response with a relaxed emoji and glamorous shots showing off her gown — much to the delight of her fans. (On Instagram, where she has 3.9 million followers, she posted a simple “Uh Ohh!” along with additional portraits of herself in the gown.)

Her tweet before that was from Valentine’s Day, imploring followers to “just come to me with jokes.”

“I want to die of laughter. Trust me it’s over after that,” she wrote at the time.


Representatives for Tems, Lever Couture and her stylist did not immediately respond Monday to The Times’ requests for comment. Nor did representatives for the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences.