On Thursday, the night of March 14, YouTube superstar Lilly Singh made history when she announced that she will host a late night talk show on NBC, called A Little Late With Lilly Singh, starting in September 2019. Though her announcement was certainly exciting for her 14 million YouTube subscribers, it also marks a huge shift in television. The news that she will take over the time slot previously occupied by Last Call With Carson Daly means that the Singh is set to change the face of late night for good.
During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Singh previewed her exciting new show, explaining some of the things she hopes to accomplish with A Little Late. "I get to make it inclusive, I get to create comedy segments, and interview people and really create something that I believe in and I'm so honored and humbled, truly," Singh told host Jimmy Fallon. "I do think it's awesome for an Indian-Canadian woman to have a late night show."
In those few statements, Singh touched on some of the biggest reasons why her new gig is so exiting, and could have long-lasting ramifications. The late night talk show space has been famously dominated by white men for years, though Sarah Silverman, Busy Phillips, and Samantha Bee are currently doing their best to add a different perspective to the talk show field. However, when Singh's show premieres in the fall, she will be the sole late night host who is a woman of color, and the only late night host on broadcast network television. (The Daily Show's Trevor Noah is the only other late night host of color currently on the air; Robin Thede's show on BET, The Rundown, was unfortunately canceled in July.)
Coincidentally, the time slot that Singh will take over was once occupied by another woman of color, Cynthia Garrett, who hosted Later With Cynthia Garrett from 2000-2001. Garrett celebrated Singh's new job in a post on Instagram, gushing that, "I have to give a shout out to the second brown woman in NBC Late Night History! Lily you made me PROUD when you gave a shout out to the women who paved the way before you."
However, the rest of Garrett's post highlighted the differences between Singh's warm welcome and the one that she received back in 2000 when her own show was announced. "The only welcome I got was from Maria Shriver which I will NEVER forget. She was incredible," Garrett wrote. "The guys couldn't have cared less. LOL In fact back when I had the time slot only 1 or 2 men were actually kind, much less welcoming," she added.
As sad as it is that Garrett experienced such a frosty welcome from her fellow network hosts — and the fact that it's taken nearly 20 years for another woman of color to land an NBC late night show — the positive reaction to Singh's announcement is a sign that the landscape of television is changing, and that representation is important in all aspects of media.
According to a USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center's Media Impact Project study, "Immigrant Nation: Exploring Immigration Portrayals on Television," Asian-Americans and Asian actors are sorely underrepresented in American media, so Singh's presence as an Indian Canadian woman is especially meaningful. For an Asian American to have a platform like a late night talk show on a network as accessible and widely-watched as NBC is almost unheard of.
In addition to establishing a presence for women of color on late night, A Little Late with Lilly Singh will help make the late night space more inclusive for the LGBT community, as Singh recently came out as bisexual. "Female, colored, bisexual. Throughout my life these have proven to be obstacles from time to time," Singh wrote in a tweet on Feb 24. "But now I'm fully embracing them as my superpowers."
Singh has built her comedy empire and amassed millions of followers and subscribers by embracing those "superpowers," and her late night show has the potential to reach even more people who will connect with and relate to her message of positivity and acceptance. While her role as the first millennial late-night host is certainly exciting for NBC executives hoping to entice a younger audience to tune into their programming, it means more than just hitting a demographic. The fact that Singh has landed such a high-profile gig at just 30 years old is a testament to her ability to connect with young audiences who are desperate to see people they relate to in any kind of media.
Singh has been open with her audience about everything from her struggle with mental health issues to her sexuality to being the child of Indian immigrants — and it's her unique perspective on the world, as a result of these things, that has helped her grow such a massive, dedicated following. The world is in need of more voices like hers, and her late night gig will amplify Singh's voice in a way that very few other jobs would have.
NBC's decision to hire a bisexual, millennial woman of color as a late night host could change the way that audiences everywhere think of talk shows, and hopefully sends a message to audiences that you don't have to be a white, male comedian to make your impact in the late night arena. Here's hoping that Singh's show is just the first of many more diverse voices headed to late night.