Tyla Lands Her First Fashion Campaign With the Gap

Even if you haven’t heard Tyla’s name yet, you’ve likely heard her music—the drum-heavy, Amapiano-inspired beat of her hit single “Water” is currently as inescapable as the element it’s named after. Or, you’ve seen her move, a mesmerizing act that originates from her hips, which seem effortlessly detached from the rest of her form. The newly-minted, first-time Grammy winner has taken the Western world by storm over the past few months, imbuing the radio, TikTok, and all your Spotify playlists with a South African flavor you likely didn’t know you were sorely missing in your musical arsenal. “People have this idea of what African music is supposed to sound like, but I just want to bring it to the world in a different way while remaining in the same conversations as the greats,” the 22-year-old tells W.

Thus far, Tyla has been successful in her endeavor. The Johannesburg native currently has the Midas Touch, with a list of “firsts” to her name that keeps growing longer with every day. There’s that Grammy Award, of course—the inaugural win under the new category, Best African Music Performance, for “Water.” Tyla was also the first South African soloist to enter the US Billboard Hot 100 in over half a century. Her self-titled debut album drops next month, which is also when she’ll kick off her first world tour. But before all of that, there’s her first major fashion campaign for Gap, which sees Tyla in her element—effortlessly boogying to another hotly viral song, Jungle’s “Back On 74.”

Congratulations on literally everything lately. What has it been like to have such an influx of milestones and opportunities over the last few months?

It’s been a huge blessing. I’m just so grateful that I’m able to experience all of this. It’s literally like my dreams are coming true. I’m putting my music, South African and African culture on the map, and that’s all I’ve wanted to do.

One of those milestones is your first fashion campaign for Gap. How does it feel to represent such a major brand?

It feels good. Gap’s ads are always so unique, and before I even got the offer, I loved the Jungle song and all the videos. So to be brought into that world was very interesting and fun, and it came out so cute. I’m super excited for it to come out and for people to see me differently.

The video is so great, and it’s also very dance-heavy. Were you a dancer growing up?

No, I was not a dancer. I enjoy dancing and I involve it in what I do, but I wouldn’t call myself a dancer, to be honest.

Have you been surprised by how much you’ve been celebrated for your dancing?

Partly yeah, but I also understand the interest because the dance style I do isn’t normal. It’s South African and not a lot of people have seen it, so I can understand the interest.

This specific Gap campaign is for their linen line. How did you feel dancing in those linen pieces?

It was cool. It was comfortable. We worked with them and we managed to mix both Gap and Tyla’s worlds by adding a little waist belt and boots and my hair in braids. I never thought I’d do something like that, that type of ad. It was just a very fun experience.

You’ve made quite a splash on the fashion scene in a short amount of time. How would you describe your style?

I like playing around with it. I feel like it’s cool but still effortless. It’s hot, islandy, not too perfect, ripped, asymmetric, colorful, fluffy. I love boots. I love showing my waist and I love when clothes look like they’re falling off of me. I feel like it’s also the vibe of the album that’s coming.

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Taylor Hill/WireImage/Getty Images

Your single “Water” absolutely blew up. Did you know it was going to be such a huge hit when you were making it?

No, I didn’t know that any of this was going to happen. I couldn’t have known. It even confuses other people. They’re like, “How is this happening to her? She’s an industry plant. It’s all happening too fast.” But I don’t understand it either, I’m just accepting it and being grateful and trusting that these things are happening because they’re supposed to.

When did you realize it was a hit?

Probably when I just was getting tagged every day in thousands of videos of people dancing to the song, and celebrities started reaching out. I’ve watched so many people blow up on social media and go viral, so being on that side of it was crazy.

Let’s talk about the Grammys. How does it feel to be a Grammy winner?

It feels amazing. I’m still getting used to hearing that.

What did it feel like to hear your name called and realize you’d won that award?

It was such a good feeling. I’m not going to lie. I was preparing myself like, “Even if you don’t win, getting nominated is still amazing. Girl, you’re good.” But them calling my name, I can’t explain that feeling. It’s something all artists dream of, and it was a moment I’m going to remember forever.

Where is the Grammy now? In a place of honor at your house?

It’s still getting engraved so I don’t have it yet, but I already know my father’s going to put it where he puts everything. He has a whole shrine back home.

A lot of people think of you as an overnight success, but you’ve been working toward this for years. What does it feel like to finally get your due?

It’s so satisfying and it makes me feel like everything I’ve been doing was so worth it. I appreciate it so much more knowing it wasn’t just given to us. We worked hard and we are still working. Now, I’m just excited to do even more. People aren’t even ready for what we have coming music-wise, brand-wise, merch-wise. There are so many exciting things that are coming up. I’m just really ready for this to be my year.

The industry plant conversation is so funny. It seems like anytime an artist is successful these days they’re labeled as an industry plant.

I don’t know. If people knew what we went through, they’d understand more. But honestly, that’s not even what I’m thinking about right now. I’m just thinking about the music. Now that people are listening and paying attention, I finally have the opportunity to show them what I’ve been wanting to show them. So I’m just looking forward to the future now.

You recently announced your self-titled, debut album. Anything you can share about it?

People are going to be able to dance to it, drive to it, do anything they want to it. It’s summer, it’s winter, it’s every season. The vibes are so good. Usually, I get tired of listening to the same song, but I am listening to my album back to back, and I’m so proud of it. There are some exciting features on it. I don’t feel like there’s a weak song on it. We’ve been working for over two years on it now, and I’m just so happy that I’ve gotten to this point.

What were some of the inspirations for the songs?

There’s a lot of love. There’s a lot of heartbreak, a lot of just flexing and letting people know who I am. There are so many different stories in the album, but it’s an introduction to Tyla musically—who I am, what I think about, and what I feel.

Do you ever have to pinch yourself to remember this is all real, or does it seem very correct given everything you’ve put into it?

I feel at peace. I feel like it’s meant to happen, which is good, but I am still very caught off guard by how fast it’s happening and the level at which it’s happening. These things don’t happen to new artists. It’s crazy, and I’m just trusting that it’s meant to happen.

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