What Is Tyla’s Ethnicity? The “Water” Singer’s Answer Caused a Social Media War

Elizabeth Randolph - Author
By

Dec. 6 2023, Published 5:42 p.m. ET

Tyla
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • Singer Tyla found R&B music success with her 2023 single, “Water.”
  • Tyla received backlash in November 2023 after referring to herself as “coloured.”
  • Tyla says she comes from a “multiracial family” and that her parents didn’t want her to pursue music.
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2023 will always be a year Tyla remembers.

In July 2023, the 21-year-old singer’s career catapulted after the release of her single, “Water.” The song quickly became a smash hit on TikTok, causing several artists like Grown-ish star Trevor Jackson to create their spin on the catchy tune.

Tyla’s mainstream success seemingly came overnight, giving the artist the career she’s strived for. However, the singer ended her life-changing year with a bang for something unrelated to her music.

In November 2023, Tyla made some comments about her ethnicity that had social media in an uproar. Keep reading to see what Tyla said PLUS details on her family history.

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Tyla at the GQ Men of the Year event
Source: Getty Images

What is Tyla’s ethnicity? Social media called the singer out for identifying as “coloured.”

Tyla, born Tyla Laura Seethal, was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Jan. 30, 2022. According to Sony Music UK, the singer comes from a “multiracial family,” her ethnicities include “Indian, Zulu, and Irish blood, to name a few.”

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While Tyla has ties to multiple ethnicities, in November 2023, a report from Blavity News stated that Tyla identifies as “coloured” and not Black.

“I feel bad for Tyla,” one fan shared on social media, obtained by @lilloworldwide on TikTok. “Americans are just going to ignore the fact that she’s not Black and continue to call her Black, no matter how many times she corrects them.”

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Tyla’s reported self-identification sparked plenty of social media discourse. Many Black Americans were offended by the word “coloured,” as the term has historically been used as a racial slur dating back to the Jim Crow era of the 1950s.

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However, Brittanica states that “coloured” has a different meaning in South Africa. According to the resource, coloured in South Africa means “a person of mixed European (“white”) and African (“Black”) or Asian ancestry,” or a mixed race person.

The difference shook many TikTok users on both sides of the African diaspora. Several Black Americans, like @bigbrolgnd, explained on TikTok that, while Tyla herself doesn’t identify as Black, the “one drop rule” for anyone of African ancestry states that she will receive the same treatment as someone Black in America.

But many South African creators say their version of coloured, which the South African government officially defined from 1950-1991, is also valid to their culture.

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Who are Tyla’s parents?

Although Tyla says she comes from a multiracial family, the singer hasn’t shared her family with the world. Her parents’ names are unknown, and it’s unclear which parent is responsible for which piece of her ethnic background.

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While Tyla hasn’t discussed her parents by name, the “Getting Late” singer has shared how her parents felt about her focusing on her music full-time. In a Nov. 28 interview with Power 106’s Justin Credible, Tyla said her parents didn’t support her being in the studio instead of getting a “real” job.

“So, I had to literally cry every day and tell them that I wanna do this. There’s nothing else I wanna do,” Tyla said of her parents. “It was difficult convincing them.”

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Eventually, Tyla’s mom and dad allowed her to put her all into music. And, despite the rumblings about her ethnicity, the singer is glad she didn’t let her parents deter her and knows they had her best interests at heart.

“In South Africa, it doesn’t happen to us,” Tyla said of her success. “I’ve heard so many women who wanted to do music and didn’t end up the way they wanted to. So, my parents were just trying to protect me, which is fine, but I showed them that I want to do music by all means.”

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