About a decade ago, when Lilly Singh was a burgeoning YouTube personality, she had goals like going on an airplane or hitting a million video subscribers. Hosting a late-night show on network television wasn’t part of that vision.
“I don’t even think my mind could have come up with the life I have right now,” the entertainer told the PBS NewsHour.
On Monday night, she’ll premiere her own talk show, “A Little Late with Lilly Singh,” on NBC — a standout addition to the nighttime TV landscape.
The Indian-Canadian performer joins a boys’ club filled with white peers. She will be the first openly bisexual woman of color to sit in the host’s chair. And while a few past YouTube stars have had some crossover success, no others have been given the keys to such prime TV real estate.
Singh started posting videos to YouTube in 2010. She called her channel “||Superwoman||” — a nod to her MSN messenger name and Lil’ Mo song at the time — and taught herself comedic timing, how to use a camera and how to edit videos. One uploaded video led to the next, and Singh grew into a bona fide YouTube star. Singh’s exaggerated, observational humor pokes fun at school, dieting, relationships, and adulting, and features elements of her Punjabi heritage, celebrities, and unicorns. Lots of unicorns. It’s a thing.
“Honestly, I am obsessed with them,” she said. That means that she’ll sometimes blurt out “Unicorn Island” in her videos when she wants to go to her “happy place.”
Since she uploaded her first YouTube video, the 30-year-old has also made cameos in a music video and an HBO miniseries, written a best-selling business book and been named by Forbes as one of entertainment’s top influencers.
Lilly Singh is about to go from Internet star to late-night TV host. But before “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” premieres on NBC, she gave the PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz a behind-the-scenes look. (There are fluffy slippers.) Video by PBS NewsHour
But as the first woman since Joan Rivers to occupy a spot on late night, Singh said she is feeling the pressure.
“Honestly, it’s exciting, and nerve-wracking at the same time,” she said. “It’s a huge honor, I’m so humbled to be part of creating that path — because I wouldn’t be here without the women that paved the path before me, so to chip away at that path is a huge honor.”
Singh also plans on featuring her fellow YouTube creators on her show, saying she wants to give the spotlight to anyone doing “dope” things, no matter the platform. In that spirit, Singh shared the names of three YouTube creators who helped her on her path, and are worthy of your attention.
In her words:
1. Grace Helbig
One of the pioneers that paved the path in terms of YouTubers transcending into the television space is Grace Helbig. She was one of the first people I watched. I remember the first time I met her, she was nothing but wonderful, and kind, and compassionate. And really, really just helped me understand this space in this world, so a huge shout-out to Grace Helbig.
2. Humble the Poet
I would give a shoutout to my friend, Humble the Poet. I learned a lot about YouTube through him and his work, and we became friends through working together. And to this day, he continues to be such an advocate for all the things I do. And he’s sitting right over there, and if I didn’t shout him out, there would be a fight when we got done. So, yeah. (laughs)
3. Harley Morenstein of YouTube show “Epic Meal Time”
Harley from “Epic Meal Time” was one of the first creators I ever met, and I remember I waited outside his hotel for two hours, just on the off chance he’d be free. And he had met me the first time that day. We sat in the lobby of that hotel, and he downloaded all of his wisdom onto me. Like, I was a stranger, he absolutely did not have to do that. He was like, “This is how you should think about brand deals. This is how you should think about merch. These are things you should be aware of.” I was just blown away at how many nuggets of wisdom he gave me. So, Harley definitely holds a special place in my heart.
Correction: This story originally said Singh was the first woman since Joan Rivers to sit in a late-night TV host chair. But Cynthia Garrett hosted “Later” on NBC from 2000 to 2001.