Lilly Singh (born 26 September 1988) was born and raised in Scarborough, Toronto.Her parents, Malwinder and Sukhwinder Singh, are originally from Punjab, India, and she was raised as Sikh.
She was in her final year of university, finishing a psychology degree, when she first learned ‘YouTube star’ was a viable career option. She’d always wanted to rap, dance, and act, but lacked confidence and didn’t know where to start.
It was, in part, a video posted by early YouTuber Jenna Marbles that brought her out of her shell. Marbles (real name:Jenna Mourey) had filmed herself performing comedy from her own bedroom, on a laptop, and was broadcasting to an audience of millions. If she could do it, why couldn’t Singh?
Singh’s first video was a spoken word piece on religion and humanity, now deleted as it’s no longer on-brand. It managed 70 views. “That meant one or two people who didn’t know me watched it,” Singh said with a laugh. “I watched other creators. I started writing scripts. I was really just making it up as I went along.”
She caught the attention of YouTube executives early on. Within her first year, the Google-owned video platform asked Singh to join their Partner Program. By 2012, having monetized her videos, she was able to hire a manager.
With its entertaining mix of comedy sketches, rants, skits, and the occasional activism, like her anti-sexist #GirlLove series, Singh’s channel — under her username, ‘IISuperwomanII’ now boasts 11.7 million subscribers.
Singh, 28, remained in her home city of Toronto, until a year and a half ago, when she “stepped out of her comfort zone,” as she puts it, and decamped to Los Angeles. Since then, her stardom has moved far beyond YouTube.
In 2016, Singh partnered with cosmetics giant Smashbox to launch a signature red lipstick shade called Bawse (her preferred spelling of ‘boss,’ with the implied dose of attitude).
“It quickly became our number one in the range and she brought a new audience of her fans to the Smashbox brand,” said Bernard Zion, VP of global marketing at the California makeup company.
Her debut book, a thoroughly modern self-help guide called — of course — How to Be a Bawse, was published simultaneously by Ballantine in the U.S., Doubleday in Canada and Penguin in the U.K. It hit #1 on The New York Times‘ monthly business bestseller list.
This past spring, Singh set off on her second world tour in support of the book. She’ll visit 27 cities across 11 countries in total; her final shows will take place in Trinidad and Tobago in late June.