Lilly Singh is Just in Time, Not ‘A Little Late’

Everytime, arguably the most influential man in the world, tells four Democratic congresswomen of colour to “go back to where they came from,” we stray further away from god.

But among deafening “send her back” chants, there is a ray of hope, one that is in accordance with some of the hopes of an inclusive society that were pinned onto the 21st century.

Canadian YouTuber Lilly Singh, a.k.a Superwoman, is helping us inch closer towards what resembles a diverse society. Making her way through American late night network television, she is the only woman of colour and queer person in a group of mostly straight white men.

As representation of coloured folks is on the rise in Hollywood, it still is not as common to see South Asian names as it is to see Hispanic, black or even Eastern Asian names.

While movies like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther, or shows like Jane the Virgin or One Day at a Time have helped people of colour tell their stories without the involvement of a white-saviour protagonist, Indians have to be content with a handful South Asian artists, such as Mindy Kaling, Kumail Nanjiani, Jameela Jamil, Hasan Minhaj and Priyanka Chopra, to name a few. Seeing Singh – a bisexual Sikh brown woman – act as a catalyst aiding diversity is a step towards the better.

Also read: An Open Letter to Everyone Who Thinks I Have to ‘Look’ Sikh to Be Sikh

Though many people around me followed Singh religiously, watching her videos every week and discussing those for hours at length, I personally was not quite fond of her.

Her impressions of her on-screen parents, Manjit and Paramjeet, put me off. To me, they seemed too exaggerated to be funny and reinforced stereotypes that the desi diaspora has to fight regularly.

It was unsettling for me to see Singh conveniently borrow from black culture: donning cornrows in her videos and becoming desi again for magazine photoshoots. I found her content to be repetitive – a video form of BuzzFeed quizzes that tell you what kind of a person you are, what zodiac sign you are, what colour you are, and many such.

So if I am not a fan of the content she has created over a span of nine years, why does her bagging a late night talk show with NBC interest me?

I credit it to diversity/possible tokenism.

I was introduced to late night television through Saturday Night Live (SNL), and while I have enjoyed quite a lot of their sketches, I cannot help but notice the stark lack of representation of coloured folks within the show – be it their cast (which is apparently crawling towards diversity with its three black and ten white repertory players), or be it their hosts.

As of season 42 (2016), a whopping 90.68% of their hosts have been white.

The situation is relatively better with the political satire sub-genre of late night shows. While Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and more recently, Hasan Minhaj have gotten their own shows, what often goes unnoticed is the diversity within writing teams – as in the case of NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, a significant chunk of which comprises men and women of colour as well as queer folks.

This, coupled with the journey Singh has been on over the past nine years is admirable.

Also read: Netflix’s ‘GLOW’ is Funny, Diverse, Relevant and Deserves Much More Attention

She began creating videos in order to work through depression; by making other people laugh, she tried to make herself feel better. The moniker ‘Superwoman’ also came up with the idea “to be her own superhero, to deal with life’s obstacles. However, in a recent Instagram post, she hung up the Superwoman cape for good, and thanked ‘Lilly’ for being the real superhero.

It is a recent phenomenon to see celebrities and public figures talk about their mental health and its impact on their professional lives. With Singh joining this movement of-sorts, another chip has been made in the wall that places stigma on mental health issues as late as in 2019.

Though I look forward to seeing what is to come, as well as if and/or how A Little Late with Lilly Singh would tackle issues such as LGBTQIA+ oppression, racism and sexism, it would be imprudent to expect TV’s age-old parcel of problems being addressed and solved.

Of all the major networks the US has to offer, NBC seems to have shot way ahead into the diversity race with A Little Late.

However, only time will tell though if the show is a mere people-pleasing move, or would it actually help and break some hurdles that upcoming LGBTQIA+ folks, people of colour, and religious minorities could face as they build a future in comedy, and Hollywood.

Kavya Sharma is a 20-year-old Economics student who wishes to spend her entire life admiring and hyping up women. She is also unhealthily obsessed with Taco Bell and the Meat Ball.

Featured image credit: Twitter