Editorial: Lilly Singh is what late night needs


Marcus Yam, Los Angeles Times | TNS

Lilly Singh arrives at the 61st Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 10.

The 10th-highest paid YouTube star isn’t just dominating YouTube anymore. Starting in September, Lilly Singh will replace Carson Daly as the host of NBC’s 1:35 a.m. talk show, where he had a 17-year tenure as host.

Singh’s new role with NBC is a huge step forward for diversity and representation on late-night television. Not only will she be the only female who is currently hosting a late-night talk show on a Big Three network, but she will also be the first late-night television show host who is a bisexual woman of color.

She has channeled her love of performance into her YouTube channel, and has more than 14 million subscribers since she began making videos in 2016. She’s known for her variety of comedic sketches, raps, vlogs and other skits that satirize and combat racial and gender stereotypes.

Singh came out as bisexual in late February to her 5.8 million followers on Twitter.

“Throughout my life these [traits of being female, colored and bisexual] have proven to be obstacles from time to time,” she wrote. “But now I’m fully embracing them as my superpowers. No matter how many ‘boxes’ you check, I encourage you to do the same x.”

At the end of 2017, the University of Southern California published a report on the lack of diversity on television. Indiana University researcher Nicole Martin studies the importance of representation in media. She co-authored a study in 2012 about the effect of television on children’s self-esteem. She found that television typically made white boys feel good about themselves, but boys and girls of color reported much lower levels of self-esteem. She says she feels confident that the lack of diverse representation on television is responsible for this effect.

“There’s this body of research and a term known as ‘symbolic annihilation,’ which is the idea that if you don’t see people like you in the media you consume, you must somehow be unimportant,” she explained in an interview with HuffPost.

At only 30 years old, Singh is also the youngest person to ever host a talk show. Not only will she be a relatable figure to those who are bisexual and people of color, but also to a younger audience in general. The younger generation wants to be heard and represented — just look at the 2018 midterm voter turnout.

ABC exit polls suggested that millenials made up 13% of the population’s vote, which is 11% more than 2014. In some states like Nevada, the millennial voter turnout was five times as high as it was in the previous midterm.

Because of the current political climate, it is more important than ever to have diverse representation in the media. Even if people are not experiencing oppression directly, it is important for them to hear personal stories about it and be aware of how current events are affecting the people around them.

Lilly Singh’s new role is exactly what people need right now to stay both entertained and informed. She represents more than just bisexual women of color. She is a perfect start to increasing representation in the media.