YouTuber Lilly Singh recently became the first Indian woman to get her own late-night network talk show, titled A Little Late with Lilly Singh. On a visit to Mumbai, she spoke about how she plans to make sure every guest she has on is comfortable, the Indians who have paved the way to Hollywood and what advice she’d give creator:
ON WHY DESIS ARE HAVING A MOMENT IN AMERICAN POP CULTURE
I learnt during my trip that there’s two periods that Indians talk about now – pre-Jio and post-Jio. So I definitely think that people are more connected and so there’s just greater opportunity. But I honestly think that the path is being paved. I think, in American culture, growing up I didn’t really see people like me on screen. I watched Bollywood movies. I was raised with Madhuri Dixit and so I knew that brown people were in Bollywood and brown people are not in Hollywood. But now it’s come to the point were people like Priyanka (Chopra) and Hasan (Minhaj) have paved the path and now we’re seeing the impact of that path and I can just hope to be a part of it.
ON MAKING HER WAY INTO HOLLYWOOD
Truthfully, I’ve never felt that being who I am has prohibited me from doing things. Am I in meeting sometimes and someone tells me, ‘I don’t think an Indian character who immigrates is relatable.’? Someone has said that to me before and I’m like, ‘I think it’s relatable to millions and millions of people’. So there are still some hurdles in terms of our stories being told… but I’ve personally never felt that someone is not going to listen to me or give me a minute because of the colour of my skin. That could be the case for other people, but I’ve been very fortunate.
WHY HER LATE NIGHT SHOW WILL HAVE A DESK
I definitely do want a table. I wanted a table because I hate sitting pretty. I’m very cautious about how my legs look on camera. Any time I go on a late night show, 90% of my brain is thinking about how I’m sitting. And I also wanna make sure that my guests don’t have to worry about that. So I’m gonna make sure that any girl that comes in heels is gonna have comfortable slippers backstage, so they don’t have to wear heels backstage.
ON FEELING A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THE MESSAGING IN HER VIDEOS
I’m not gonna pretend to be a certain way. The best example is swearing. I don’t swear in my videos because I don’t swear in my life. So that’s the best example I can give. I won’t put on a facade to be a role model. Having said that, recently I’ve recognised that what I’m doing is a little bigger than myself. I’ve felt that way with the past year. A whole bunch of creators who have massive channels now that tell me, ‘I started YouTube because of you,’ and then I can say, ‘Oh my God! What I’ve done has empowered you to create this amazing audience and have your own voice!’
ON HER TAKE ON ‘CHOLI KE PEECHHE’
For a second I was hmm.. female empowerment, people are gonna be threatened by this. Mental health is also a huge taboo. So I had a talk with myself and said, if people are gonna be upset about these things, it’s not for those people. It’s for the people that will benefit from what I’m saying. What I’m making is not for the angry people that don’t want women to be empowered. It is for the woman that needs to be empowered.
ON WHAT SHE LEARNT FROM HER YOUTUBE BREAK
I became so overwhelmed where I would come home after an amazing day of shooting and I would be exhausted. I couldn’t have time to think about my day or to celebrate any of my achievements. Something amazing would happen and I would come home and pass out. I would be so tired, without taking a second to be like, ‘Good, you did good.’ So I had to slow down and just really evaluate what I want my priorities to be…
I’m gonna tell you the truth and it’s probably not the answer anyone wants to hear. After I took a break, my numbers did go down. Everything I feared happened. I’m not gonna sit here and lie and be like it was fine. My numbers went down. Even once I started uploading again, it was hard to get my numbers to where they were. As a creator I get why that’s tricky because it’s the only measure you have. My adsense is based on my views, the views based on my subscribers, and how many people thumbs up… When I come back, the thing that had to change, aside from my upload schedule, was how I determined what was successful, how I actually defined success had to change. It’s not just numbers. It can’t be just numbers. That would mean that the one person that comes and says, ‘You’ve really helped me in my life.’ So any advice I’d give to creators would be really figure to how you define success and it can’t just be the numbers. That’s not a healthy way to live.