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From Lilly Singh to Superwoman

Lilly Singh. Photo: Vivek Bendre

Lilly Singh. Photo: Vivek Bendre  

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Indo-Canadian Internet celebrity Lilly Singh talks about her journey to cyber stardom.

Her YouTube channel has over five millions subscribers, hundreds of videos and a dedicated fan-base spread across the world, and yet Indo-Canadian Internet celebrity Lilly Singh aka IISuperwomanII says she got nervous while announcing her upcoming world tour before a crowd of shrieking fans at the YouTube FanFest in Mumbai. “It is the biggest project I have ever worked on. It is my brain, my baby, my passion...I want it to be absolutely phenomenal,” recalls the entertainer, who is arguably the first Indian woman to make it big on YouTube.

Lilly’s journey to cyber stardom is what our favourite stories are made of — from battling depression, giving in to parental pressure, a Eureka moment while on a lone walk on the beach to owning a YouTube channel that is now one of the world’s top five subscribed and viewed YouTube channels, all by the age of 26.

Her videos are hilarious, random and dramatised exaggerations of topics that are not bound by geographical or cultural contexts - types of cousins, girls on their periods, if boys got their period, if my brain were a person, how to tell your parents bad news and a whole section on 'The Super Rants'.

While she has a whole host of collaborative videos with the likes of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Sean, Kunal Nayyar and Madhuri Dixit, the most famous ones are the sketches that feature her loud, stereotypical NRI “parents”, Manjeet and Paramjeet, played by Lilly herself.

In a chat, Lilly tells us how IISuperwomanII came to be and why her being Indian was a harder stereotype to break.

What was Lilly Singh up to before she became Superwoman?

 Lilly Singh had finished university, got her psychology degree, taken a year off, didn’t know what she wanted to do in life and so did nothing for one year. Then — not because she wanted to but because her parents told her to — started looking at doing her masters in counselling psychology. I remember writing the application for my masters and then going ‘Oh my god! I don’t even want to do these applications, how am I going to do this for four years?’

It was during that time, between sending applications, that I decided on doing YouTube videos seriously and I already had a few videos out at that time. At that moment, I walked up to my parents and was like ‘Hey! I’ve decided that I am not going to do my masters, and instead I am going to make YouTube videos!”

When exactly did you start making videos?

I can tell you the exact moment it happened. I had a few videos out at that time and I was coming out of a state of depression and I was confused. I was on a vacation in Mexico with my family and going for a walk – it was so like Bollywood – sat at the beach and had a talk with myself. I think for the first time I asked myself – ‘What makes you happy? What do you want to do?’ And the answer was: ‘Entertaining people makes me really happy.’ ‘What am I doing right now that involves that? I am making YouTube videos. So let’s put all my effort into that and see where it goes.’ The second I flew back home, I started making YouTube videos.

 How different is Lilly Singh from her online avatar IISuperwomanII?

We are pretty much identical. The only difference is that Lilly sometimes gets scared, sad and tired whereas Superwoman is a performer – she will never get scared, sad or tired. She is super-confident all the time. But personality trait-wise, like not swearing, talking of unicorns and one love, that’s Lilly through and through.

Which was a tougher stereotype to break – being an Indian or being a female comic?

Definitely being Indian. There were already so many females on YouTube but I am pretty sure I am the first Indian big YouTuber that’s also female. When I first started, all the media I ever got was ‘Hey! There’s this Indian girl. And even though she is Indian she gets views and stuff.’ But now, it makes me really happy that in North America that’s not the headline anymore.

What makes your videos globally appealing?

I think it’s the relatability. I think what people like about my channel is that I am not perfect. I always point to my pimple, my bad hair day…people relate to that. They are watching somebody who is exactly like them and talking about things that they experience as well.

Your dream collaboration?

It would obviously be with The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). But if I were to collaborate musically it would be with Beyonce, or Katy Perry, MIA, any of the Bachchans... I have a dream list of people.

Your thoughts on freedom of expression...

No matter what I put out, somebody will be offended. I made a video on 10 reasons to smile, and it has dislikes. That should be an indication that there will be some who get offended not matter what you do. The best you can do as an entertainer or as someone who performs is to follow what you believe in.

You can’t really do anything else. If you say ‘I don’t want to offend anyone’ then don’t get on stage. Just ask yourself ‘Do I think it is right? Do I think it is offensive? And do I think that everyone is okay to hear this? If I truly believe this then I should go and do this.’

Lilly’s world tour ‘A Trip To Unicorn Island’ will begin with India where Lilly will perform at Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore next month, presented by Culture Machine

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 6:08:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/from-lilly-singh-to-superwoman/article7093042.ece

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