Media celebrities from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada are few and far between. There’s Mike Myers from Austin Powers and Shrek fame. Alternative rock band (and one-hit wonders for non-Canadians), Barenaked Ladies also hail from the Toronto district. But in recent years, a new celebrity has emerged in a way never before seen, using YouTube as a platform for her audience. Punjabi-Canadian comedienne Lilly Singh (aka Superwoman) is a rising star in entertainment, managing to charm audiences and send a positive message to women around the world. Her YouTube channel, IISuperwomanII, has 12.8 million subscribers and over 2.3 billion views across all her videos. In 2017, Lilly earned $10.5 million through YouTube and is one of the main stars of 2018’s HBO adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. Her career is skyrocketing to unprecedented levels, winning both fame and awards, but the most impressive part is that she’s just getting started.
In 2010, Singh first started her journey by vlogging – posting video blogs online, documenting her day. Doing so helped her get through a rough patch, calling the process therapeutic. In an interview with Flare, she divulged how it helped: “I was a super depressed person, I needed help and I found [my outlet] through YouTube so I intentionally put positive messages in my videos, in my show and in everything I do because I started this to help people and that will always be my reason for what I do.” The more videos she made, the more her confidence grew, transforming her into the “Superwoman” whose moniker she adopted.
The lack of South Asian females on YouTube making comedy videos also helped Singh gain exposure and stand out from the pack. She would appear in small roles in independent movies, all while YouTube Red had plans to feature her in a prominent way. A Trip to Unicorn Island might sound like a children’s animated feature, but it’s actually the name of Singh’s feature film debut. It’s a documentary following her 30-city comedy tour, based on characters she portrays in her YouTube videos.
The exposure lead to many successes in her professional life including winning top prizes from the MTV Fandom Awards, Streamy Awards, Teen Choice Awards, and People’s Choice Awards. As a result of Singh’s explosion in popularity, her YouTube videos regularly feature famous celebrity guests like Dwayne Johnson, Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Bill Gates and Zendaya.
In March of 2017, Singh released How to be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, a New York Times best-seller about her rise to fame. The book is meant to inspire young women who may be struggling through life like Lilly once struggled.
In partnership with Me to We social enterprise, Singh released the GirlLove Rafiki Bracelet. These handmade bracelets are made by Kenyan girls and the money raised helps pay for their schooling. The number of bracelets sold soared past Singh’s initial goal of 5,000 and is currently at over 32,000 sold and counting. In July 2017, Singh was announced as UNICEF’s newest Goodwill Ambassador to help children in need.
From her humble beginnings in Scarborough, to her meteoric climb to fame, Lilly Singh remains the same. She is dedicated to her comedy, her creativity, and her ability to help the less fortunate. For this, she has truly earned the title of “Superwoman”.
Alex Correa | The Edge Blog