Lilly Singh will mark a major milestone Monday. A Little Late with Lilly Singh, premiering September 16 on NBC, will be the only current late-night show hosted by an openly queer woman of color.
I wanted to learn more about Singh’s trajectory when I heard the news—and started by reading her best-selling book How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, which chronicles the Indian-Canadian YouTube star’s 27-city world tour in 2016, which she also recorded in the documentary A Trip to Unicorn Island.
“A Bawse is like a boss, but so epic that I had to change the spelling,” Singh explains to readers. “Unlike a boss, who is defined as such only within the workplace, a Bawse is someone who excels in both personal and professional settings… A Bawse exudes confidence, turns heads, gets hurt efficiently, communicates effectively and hustles relentlessly. ”
Singh, of course, embodies Bawsiness. She wants the best for herself, and has indeed hustled relentlessly to achieve it. Her YouTube channel, iiSuperwomanii, which she began in 2010, now has over 14 million subscribers, and her videos have been viewed over 3 billion times.
But Singh also wants the best for everyone else. While some of her videos are comedic, others are personal glimpses into Punjabi culture and her struggles to overcome depression. Her social media movement, #GirlLove, has urged countless girls to be kinder to their peers.
“My hope is that this book will unleash your inner Bawse and give you the tools necessary to not only survive life, but conquer it,” she urges. “I want you to know that I’ve been through some tough challenges, and that the lessons I’m sharing with you in this book were not easily learned. I’m not writing about mythical, fairy-tale stuff. I’m telling you what has actually worked in my life, the things that pulled me out of a place of deep depression into a life filled with the kind of success I couldn’t have ever imagined. I want to be a positive light in this world.”
Singh began her YouTube channel because she was deeply depressed, and she wanted to change her life. “If you’re drowning, keep your life jacket on and fight,” she explains. “But once you’re able to swim, don’t convince yourself you forgot how to. Take your life jacket off, front-crawl your way to the shore, walk off that beach and set your GPS to the top of a hill, because you WILL conquer the climb.”
It’s a climb Singh knows intimately. “There is no escalator to success,” she declares. “You have to take the stairs. It’s absolutely exhausting to climb the stairs, especially because you can’t always see the top of the staircase.”
It’s one I know intimately, too—there have been so many times when I have been ready to give up, especially when I was leaving my marriage and during my divorce. But I set small goals, climbed up the next stair and recently marked my own milestone: my YouTube channel passed one million views.
“You are revolutionary,” Singh writes to her readers. “You have amazing ideas. You have the ability to create, to change, to solve, and to influence. Don’t sell yourself short by not spending your time, energy, and money on creating the best version of yourself.”
Singh’s book urges women to investigate and interrogate the things they want—and pursue them. We might not all have investigations that end up with billions of views, or careers that land us our own late night TV shows, but Singh is determined to prove that we can change our own lives and find our own rainbows, one step forward at a time, if we take the time and effort to become comfortable with ourselves and the ambitious pursuit of our own goals.
I hope some day to have my own show about travel, and I am inspired by Singh’s success. As she premieres her show, I’m still mulling over one of the questions in How to Be a Bawse: “What will my future self thank me for doing today?”
I’m certain of Monday’s answer: Turning on NBC to watch Lilly Singh.