Lilly Singh, the Only Woman of Color With Her Own Late-Night Show

Jordana Weiss

On March 14, 2019, Lilly Singh officially made the leap from YouTuber and influencer to late-night talk show host. Wearing a swingy black dress spangled with iridescent silver and orange slashes, Singh seemed completely at home in the guest chair on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. After a bit of catching up with the host, she dropped a big announcement—she would be getting her own late-night talk show on NBC. A Little Late with Lilly Singh is scheduled to take over the 1:30 a.m. slot from Last Call with Carson Daly in SeptemberIn addition to interviews with guest, the half-hour show will also showcase Singh’s signature comedy in sketches and pre-taped segments.

With this announcement, Singh became the only woman of color at the helm of any late-night show. And when she starts filming in September, she’ll be the only female late-night host on any major broadcast network. There have only been a few other female late-night hosts in history. Legendary comedian Joan Rivers sat behind the desk of Fox’s The Late Show from 1986 to 1987, and Cynthia Garrett helmed Later with Cynthia Garrett for a little less than a year in 2000. There haven't been any other female late-night hosts in more than 18 years.

In a statement, Singh celebrated her achievement by saying: “An Indian-Canadian woman with her own late-night show? Now that is a dream come true. I’m thrilled to bring it to life on NBC, and I hope my parents consider this to be as exciting as a grandchild.”

Lilly was born in Toronto to parents who had emigrated from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, a few years before she was born. She did all her formal schooling in Ontario, but trips to India fueled her connection to her heritage. After being sidelined with depression, she started uploading videos to her YouTube channel, IISuperwomanII, in 2010. She immediately attracted a massive audience with her goofy impressions, hilarious commentary, and comedy sketches.

Many first-generation Indian immigrants in North America are huge fans: it’s the first time they’ve been able to see themselves and their experience represented in comedy. When Singh came out as bisexual on Instagram, her post was inundated with likes and comments, as many other young LGBTQ people of color celebrated the fact that she was stepping forward in a community where coming out is often an obstacle to acceptance.

Many of her sketches draw on her Punjabi heritage ("If Game of Thrones Were Indian," "Gift Guide for Immigrant Parents"), and with a few different wigs and costumes, Singh manages to portray most of the characters in her videos—including her parents. Many of her funniest sketches are rooted in Bollywood and Indian cultural tropes, but Singh’s gift is in translating her experiences and making them hilarious and relatable to her audience regardless of their upbringing or background. In the nine years since her YouTube channel came online, she’s attracted more than 14 million subscribers. 

Singh’s path to the late-night desk may not be traditional, but her credentials are rock-solid. She’s already familiar with celebs, having worked with Priyanka Chopra, Dwayne Johnson, James Franco, and others on her YouTube channel. She has hundreds of self-written, self-produced videos under her belt with millions of views each, and she carved out her own distinct comedy style before she even hit 30.  

All we have to do as her audience is sit back and watch her succeed.