Lilly Singh, also known as IISuperwomanII, is the queen of the digital space with her rib-tickling YouTube videos, but her philosophy to attain success is painfully uncomplicated.
“You can accomplish a lot in life by believing in two values: being without fear and being without hate. I have tattooed that on my wrist too,” said Singh in an interview with Gulf News tabloid! ahead of her book-signing tour in Dubai on May 10.
But listen up, because this 28-year-old Canadian vlogger, who boasts of 11 million subscribers on her YouTube channel and has had a meteoric rise in the social media world in less than ten years, is maybe onto something here.
Her satirical approach to life, her immigrant experience in Canada as a Punjabi woman and her love for self-deprecating humour has made her a true boss among her fans.
Ahead of her visit to Dubai for the book-signing of How to be a Bawse, tabloid! spoke to Singh on success, sexism and the need for re-invention ...
What should we know about your Dubai tour?
It’s not a traditional book-signing tour, in addition to a meet and greet. It will be a comedic motivational Ted talk — an hour of me not only making you laugh, but also to inspire you and interact with you. I am hoping to make you analyse yourself about working hard, and how you think about success.
Do you think women can have it all?
Women can have whatever they want to have. If they want it all, then they can get it all. My book is not about having it all, it is about having what you want. Success means different things to each person and it’s very subjective with a different definition to each one.
For me, success may be about making some very cool content and for some it is to being a good mum. How to be a Bawse … is about whatever you decide, what are the practical steps to get there. It is not about having it all. No woman can have everything, but it about how to get what you want.
What prompted you to write the book and is this your attempt to reinvent yourself?
This is not about reinventing myself, but this is an extension of [expressing] myself through a different medium. Right now, I love making videos, but writing a book was a different experience. You are more vulnerable and more elaborate through this medium. Whereas if I am writing a script for YouTube, then I have to think about the attention span and the goal is always to make people laugh. Whereas, for my book the goal is not to necessarily make people laugh. Hopefully, the book is funny but my goal is to encouraging and empowering people through a different medium. That is why I really enjoyed writing the book.
You have been vocal about your mental health issues and in a way showed your vulnerable side to your fans. Do you think you were so widely accepted because you didn’t shy away from talking about it?
I don’t whether I was accepted a lot more, but I think many found me more relatable after I spoke about it. They appreciated it because as you know there’s a stigma attached to mental health and you lead by example. If you start a conversation, then people respect that and feel more comfortable with me. I got many comments saying that I am encouraged to speak about my mental health now, which is great and what I wanted to accomplish.
Do you remember your first good review and your first bad review?
I respect and love when people give me positive feedback, but in time I know that there are people are who are negative about what I do. But I focus my attention on matters that deserve my attention and that has always been my goal. It’s always about getting thicker skin and putting my attention to people who support me. Having said that, I don’t want to always shut down negative comments because constructive criticism is always good. But if someone calls me fat and ugly, then that’s not constructive either and I try not to pay attention to it.
Did you face the much-dreaded writer’s block while putting together your first book?
I function through deadlines and that’s because I am very busy, pushed for time. For the book, I had deadline for chapter summaries and my editor was great at giving me deadlines. Writing the book was not what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be very calm, but my life was so busy that I had a lot of all-nighters and it was about finding the time to write the book. It took me a total of one year to write the book — it’s ‘forever’ in internet language, but in the book world it’s considered quick. I am very happy with my turnaround time of a year.
As a woman comedian, do you think you have it tougher than your male counterparts? Have you faced gender-bias while on stage?
It’s not a gender neutral world, for sure. But YouTube is a great example of being one of the most diverse platforms in the entertainment industry in terms of gender, sexual orientation, culture and religion. It’s a pioneer in being an equal opportunity, all-inclusive platform. Having said that, there’s a comment section on YouTube that’s filled with sexism and remarks filled with giving us women a hard time.
We saw the video of you being a wing woman for Priyanka Chopra — does that indicate your plan of venturing into Bollywood?
If they let me. I am waiting for some director to ask me, and I would love to act in films.
How about Hollywood after appearing in Bad Moms?
After the book tour is done, I plan to have a heavy focus on auditioning again. I want to write more, act more and direct, too. I would love to do more of Hollywood, not leaving my digital space either.
What’s your philosophy in life?
I could talk about life forever, I love talking about it. The key to success in life is easy: work hard and be nice to people. It’s the two pillars that I have built my life on. It’s not complicated. You can accomplish a lot in life by believing in two values: being without fear and being without hate. I have tattooed that on my wrist. Fear and hate are the two problems that you face in life and if you get rid of those things then you will be a lot more happy and successful. It’s easier said that done and I know that, but humans often complicate things a lot and consider it easier said than done. It’s difficult to get to the spot, but it’s not impossible. Before I perform, so many emotions come into play — you are nervous and worried that people are not going to like what you have to say, but what I do is I look in the mirror and I hold up my left index finger and right index finger and I say to myself — ‘the left index finger is before my show and the right index finger is me after a successful show and when you look in the mirror there’s no physical obstacle between the two fingers. All the obstacles that I think is there are the ones I make up in mind.’ They are all made up in my head, so if you eliminate all that you make up in your head, then you can eliminate fear and obstacles and conquer what you want. Being nervous before a show is good, because it indicates that you care.
What’s your advice to all those who want to break into stand-up comedy in the virtual world?
I am no expert and I was never trained formally in comedy. I am making most things up as I go along. But I would say one of the keys to comedy is being comfortable in your own skin. Lot of my successful videos has me being unapologetically myself and poking fun at myself, at my life and being self-deprecating. Being comfortable in your own skin will allow you to observe things around you better and help you make enjoyable comedy.
“Every time I come to Dubai, I want to go to the desert and go for excursions. I love driving ATVs in the desert and I also love going on safari rides because the drivers are mostly insane and I feel I am clutching to the edge of my life, at the brink of death. For some reason, I find that exciting.”
Don’t miss it!
What: Lilly Singh: How To Be A Bawse Book Tour in Dubai 2017.
When: May 10 Where: Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa Hotel
Tickets start at Dh295.