With more than 8 million subscribers, the L.A.–based vlogger Lilly Singh—aka ||Superwoman||—is one of YouTube’s biggest draws, attracting a global audience with her trademark blend of positivity and straight-talk humor. Singh’s videos, which have been viewed more than 1 billion times, are a mix of jokes, impressions, and goofy comic personae that find her tackling subjects from what it’s like to have Punjabi parents to how she deals with depression. Last year, she turned some of her most popular bits into a comedy act that she took on a sold-out 26-city world tour, with stops in Hong Kong and Sydney, and released a documentary about it that was one of the initial offerings on YouTube Red.
Fast Company: How did you develop the Lilly Singh brand?
Lilly Singh: It’s an ongoing process. I’m still figuring out what people like, and I’m still learning. My first video wasn’t comedy, my second video wasn’t comedy, but eventually I was like: Talk about the funny thing that happened; that sounds good. I enjoyed doing it, and it got a really good response. I have this rule where I won’t do things if I don’t enjoy them.
You post two eight-minute videos a week. That’s a lot of work! How do you come up with ideas? Do you ever feel creatively spent?
I often ask my audience what they want to see, because they know best. I have more than 400 videos now, and two videos a week is not easy. Something I’ve been doing recently is taking in as much stimulus as possible from my environment. Anytime I have a spare second, I will watch other YouTube videos. Anytime I’m on a plane, I will watch movies. I make sure I know all the trending topics on Twitter. When I’m in a restaurant or in a mall, I will be like: Oh, that’s interesting, that’s a tendency people have. I’m always taking in information and being very, very observant. That helps.
How did you turn your short videos into a live event?
It was tough—a lot of me writing things down, ripping up the page, writing things down, ripping things up. But I think my show is awesome. I’m proud of it. It’s called A Trip to Unicorn Island, and essentially Unicorn Island is a synonym for my happy place. Everyone has a Unicorn Island within them, and I’m going to show you that you don’t need me or anyone else to be happy. It’s interesting: You’re coming to my show and I’m telling you that you don’t need me. How’s that for a business strategy?
A version of this article appeared in the June 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.