When a millennial met a YouTube sensation

In a quirky twist, HT Brunch got Zuni Chopra, 16, to interview YouTube sensation Lilly ‘Superwoman’ Singh... The conversation offers a ringside view into the minds everyone wants to get into

brunch Updated: May 13, 2017 22:10 IST
Zuni Chopra
Zuni Chopra
Hindustan Times
Zuni Chopra,Lilly Singh,Superwoman
YouTube sensation Lilly Singh aka Superwoman

‘What up everyone, it’s your girl, Superwoman!’

Words that I’ve heard a hundred, probably a thousand times over. And yet, hearing them from the comfort of my home while watching YouTube in my PJs with a brushed back fringe and my stuffed panda in one hand (don’t judge) is very different from hearing them from the inside of a suddenly claustrophobic room while wearing a bright, flowery dress and icky make-up, knowing that the person speaking them is just outside.

And you’re supposed to appear intelligent to this person. And make conversation. And not only make conversation, but make productive, insightful, entertaining conversation. With Lilly Singh, aka Superwoman, aka World’s Best Bawse, aka amazing YouTuber with over 11 million subscribers. Known as far and wide as Jamaica and Pakistan.

To be clear though, it wasn’t just the sound of her voice from behind the large double doors that alerted me to my imminent tryst with death/heaven. No, it was the screams and whistles and cheers of a hundred ardent fans who would each probably give up Wi-Fi for the opportunity I had. And what was I doing with it? Sweating like a sinner in church. Every time the door shifted on its hinge, my heart stopped.

Big bang theory

Okay. Deep breaths. I blinked for legitimately half a microsecond and boom! There she was. Trust me, boom is an understatement. She walked in looking hectic but happy, hustling but joyous, a superstar, her every laugh lingering with sincerity. And I promise you, dear reader, had you not known who this woman was, who this remarkable, inspiring, magnetically amicable woman was, then you would never have guessed it was her causing all the pandemonium, because for not one second did she demand her space in the room. She earned it. Lights, camera crews, make-up, professional journalists, and a 16-year-old in a pink dress clutching a notebook like ‘hi.’

“There is a line between being cocky and loving yourself. It’s not about what other people think, it’s about what you think about yourself.”

Where do I even begin? She had so much humility, so much subtle merriment, and so much hair. She was, in every sense, a Bawse. She knew not of her fame, but of her fans. She knew not of her sales, but of the heartfelt tweets telling her how much she’d done for people she didn’t even know, that her action had led to change. And she saw me as not just another interview on the checklist, but as another opportunity. The same way I saw her.

There’s something so remarkable about that, isn’t there? That down to earth dignity, that passion for excellence, that undisguised and undeterred pursuit of happiness. And have I mentioned her silver-sheen shoes? Because they were fabulous.

In Lilly’s own words, she “encourages people to motivate themselves, no matter how silly (their method) is.” As a child, she called herself Superwoman because the name gave her strength. She certainly encouraged me. She took every opportunity she could to tell me I was doing great, complete with a warm smile, as though it was her job to take care of me rather than the other way round.

I felt like I was in one of her videos. Because her heart was in it. And it was clear to everyone with whom she exchanged so much as a greet- ing that if her heart’s in it, her whole heart’s in it. None of this apathetic, disinterested business. I had to ask: “You often have to reshoot videos because they’re out of focus or didn’t film correctly, right? How do you find the energy and excitement to film the whole thing again with the same passion in it?” “I’m a bit of a maniac,” she responds. “I want to give the audience a 100 per cent. At the end of the day, if I can reshoot something to make it better, I will.” The reason for this, as she has often explained, is her love for her work. But to me it means something more. She would rather shoot an entire video again, sometimes thrice over, than use blurry footage. It speaks volumes of who she is, what she does, how true she is to the messages she spreads, and what an inspiration she is to people my age. If you’re going to give your life to something, give it your all. Only then will you find something fulfilling in it, and only then will it bring you the joy which will make you work at it for years.

Who’s the boss?

You must, above all, love yourself, she says in her new book, How to be a Bawse. But some people (whom I, being in high school, know very well) manage to turn this into overconfident arrogance, something toxic and dangerous. And yet her ego is as non-existent as her indolence. “Yeah, I think there is a line between being cocky and loving yourself. Loving yourself is taking care of yourself, making sure you’re happy, whereas being cocky is cutting other people down and making sure other people know your authority, power or something superficial about you. It’s not about what other people think, it’s about what you think about yourself. You make sure you hear positive things and are around positive people, and that you are the best version of yourself,” she explained, clearly having mastered the art. True self-worth doesn’t push those around you down – it brings them up. Team Super will “always spread positivity and accept everyone. One love style. No discrimination against anyone.”

“Growing up, people were like, ‘by this age, you should have a job, by this age, you should have kids’ — life doesn’t work like that.”

And to others like me, high school students who face a great deal of anxiety and pressure in terms of academic achievement, she says, “There’s no way to success other than working really hard and it could mean that for a week you need to sacrifice social outings or having fun. But having said that, I don’t think anything in your life should be considered as ‘make or break’. I understand that tests put pressure on kids, and it should pressure you in the sense that you care about it, but it shouldn’t be considered that if you fail this test, your life is over. That’s not true. I’ve failed tests before. You should build such strong foundation that this doesn’t happen.”

Even if the results come back, and maybe you weren’t expecting to do quite so badly, it’s okay, says Lilly. “I mean you definitely have to take those results seriously and make action plans to do better next time, but I don’t think kids should get one bad mark and feel like failures.”

Comforting, right? Nothing is worth damaging yourself over. It’s never as important as you imagine. As TS Eliot said, For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

So release any negative, hurtful pressure. Furthermore, don’t feel insufficient or out of place if you don’t have a boyfriend yet. Because Superwoman doesn’t either. “I think we Asians think everything has an age. Growing up, people were like, ‘by this age, you should have a job, by this age, you should have kids’ – life doesn’t work like that. People don’t work according to schedule, and so people need to really understand that everyone is different, everyone will do things according to their own schedule. Do what is comfortable for you, as long as it’s safe and no one is getting hurt, it’s fine.”

Lilly’s photoshoot for her book took three days and a whole lot of styling, but she loved the process.

Help yourself

On the topic of the book, she agreed that it has a similar spirit to her YouTube channel, with a few differences in that “it’s generally being positive and working hard but this has practical methods to do it, which I don’t do on YouTube, that’s more comedic. This is also comedic, but it has actual ways to help yourself.”

And in case you were wondering, the photoshoot for the book took three straight days to complete. It feels “unbelievably cool,” she says, to look so glamorous and Bawse-like on the cover of her own book. “I do really like the images in the book. It took three days, non-stop, so tiring. So many outfit changes, so many styling changes. But I think the pictures add value to the book. I was confused on what I wanted the cover to be, there were so many options, but I’m really happy (with this).” The one on the cover is, of course, her favourite.

And finally, I asked the most pivotal question of all: Ever thought about getting short hair?

“No, I think I would feel so naked and uncomfortable that I wouldn’t know what to do. My hair has become an important part of how I walk and sit, I’m always adjusting it – I would feel like my arm is missing!” But yes, of course having such hair has led to the occasional catastrophe. “One time I was driving and I closed my sunroof and I guess my hair was blowing out and when I walked out of the car, a few strands of my hair were stuck in the sunroof. They got ripped out of my head!”

So to conclude, if you, dear reader, take away just one message from Superwoman and (hopefully) from me, let it be that you are unstoppable. You are a force to be reckoned with. And with enough hard work, perseverance, passion, positivity and self-confidence, you will be well on your way to becoming a Bawse!

Who run the world? Girls!

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Zuni Chopra,16, is the daughter of filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra and journalist Anupama Chopra. She debuted as a novelist with The House That Spoke and has also penned two poetry books.

From HT Brunch, May 14, 2017

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First Published: May 13, 2017 22:10 IST