YouTube star Lilly Singh on career success, beauty diversity and self-love

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Jacqueline Kilikita
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The face of Smashbox’s new Super Fan mascara talks beauty diversity, acne struggles and the pressure of online perfection…

If you haven’t heard of Lilly Singh, where have you been?

Her success story began on YouTube, where she is known as IISuperwomanII and has over 13 million subscribers and counting. Since shooting to fame thanks to her side-splittingly funny and totally relatable videos about family, acne and work life, she has achieved activist and actress status, having recently starred alongside Emily Ratajkowski in NBC comedy pilot Bright Futures.

In other words, there isn’t much Singh can’t do, which is exactly why beauty brand Smashbox have tapped her yet again as the face of their latest product, the SuperFan Fanned Out Mascara, £17.50.

Here’s what happened when Stylist caught up with the woman of the moment herself. 

You have millions of followers on Instagram and YouTube – do you ever feel pressured when you go to post a picture or a video?

Not in terms of appearance. A lot of people think they always have to look good but I really don’t. I don’t vlog every day so I don’t feel the need to look great all the time. I sometimes feel the pressure of content, though. The trend is now really over-the-top vlogging. Sometimes I overthink it and wonder if my skin looks good or something but vlogging isn’t about that – it’s about the quality content.

How do you deal with negative comments?

I have a degree in psychology and this is the one aspect in which I use it! When people make comments, it’s really a reflection of them. I don’t wake up in the morning and leave mean comments for people to read online because I’m happy, and I just think, well, the people who are leaving me mean comments are unhappy and insecure and that’s not a reflection of me. Generally, those are my thoughts, but there are times when it will really tick me off!

You mentioned in one of your videos that you suffer with acne – have you found any remedies or products that actually help?

I think the reason why I sometimes get spots is because I don’t drink that much water! I’m not good at drinking water at all. I’ve found that using hydrating products like moisturisers and masks help. I think my skin is just really dehydrated so I just need to hydrate it more. I don’t think that make-up contributes, but sometimes I can be too lazy to wash my face! 

You’re also a comedian, actress, entertainer and activist. What advice would you give to young women looking to achieve as much as you have?

In my experience, a lot of people have an opinion on what you do. If you want to do something, you have to be very firm with the decision. If it’s not working out for you, it shouldn’t be that the goal changes, but the message or the plan. Stick to your guns. In activism or entertainment, everyone is always going to have an opinion. Know what you want to do and go for it.

You’re soon to star in a movie and television show – how different is that to filming videos in your own home? Did you feel a little bit out of your comfort zone?

When I go on to a professional set, I don’t have any control as to how the scene plays out. I can interject and give my feedback but I don’t get to watch the playback or edit it or control it, so it’s quite challenging but I had such a great time shooting both of my projects recently, especially Bright Futures. The cast was so great, the crew were amazing and I sincerely hope I get a chance to do more of that because it was so cool.

So, you’re one of a number of stars that feature in the new Smashbox mascara campaign – what do you love most about the product?

In general, I love that mascara makes you look really awake. It’s the one product that I make sure I put on before I leave the house. I’m not going to lie, I’m not that good at applying mascara, so this is a big step for me! This one is so easy to apply and there’s no need to layer it over and over again. From the first application you can see it works. I love the ease of the product and how effective it is at lengthening and thickening lashes, great for someone that doesn’t have the time or any make-up skills. 

Have you learnt any clever mascara application tips?

I used to put so many layers on but less now, so I make significantly less mistakes. One of my tips is to not sneeze – you’ll get it everywhere. But it’s all in the technique – just rotate the brush and move it in a spiral upwards motion. Before, I just used to slap it on but now I use my fingers to lift my lashes and it makes a world of difference.

You already have a lipstick (Bawse, a vibrant pillarbox red) with Smashbox  why did you decide to collaborate with them again?

They’re just really cool! They’re a brand that lets me be myself. They never make me pretend to be an expert with make-up or say or do anything that’s not me. There are a lot of people out there like me that do like make-up but are not experts – they aren’t make-up gurus and that’s why Smashbox is great because they cater to people with different levels. The brand is a representation of real people and their products are cruelty-free, which is really important to me.

Smashbox are a really inclusive brand but do you think more needs to be done in the beauty industry in general in terms of diversity? What would you like to see?

I feel like we’re on a good trajectory right now with brands like Smashbox and others. Things have really improved. Years ago, I would have to blend two or three foundations or concealers together to find the colour that matched my skintone and that’s less of a problem now than it was years ago. There is always room for improvement but I think we’re definitely on the right track, and that’s promising. 

You’re close to your mum and aunts, have you learnt any cool, unusual or clever beauty hacks from them?

My mum definitely learns all of her beauty hacks from me. Otherwise, they’re really into too much powder and most of it is just really intense eyeliner [laughs] – kohl, black eyeliner is their thing. They also say random things like, drinking milk is good for your skin [laughs].

Your hair is amazing – are there any products you swear by?

I’m happy to say that I’m a Pantene girl, but when people ask me that, they’re always shocked to learn that I don’t do a lot of things to it. They always think there’s some kind of magical reason as to why my hair is so long and it’s very scientific [laughs] but I just don’t cut it. I don’t straighten or curl it unless I have to or if I’m going out and I don’t use heated tools on it straight out of the shower. I also don’t put that much product in it – I just let it do its thing.

Your confidence is contagious – do you have any tips for us?

I only really became confident when I was happy with who I am as a person. It sounds corny but a lot of my confidence comes from the fact that I love myself and I’m forgiving of myself. I’m OK with my emotions and I’m not embarrassed to have them. I really just believe in myself and that contributes a lot to my self-confidence. 

The Smashbox SuperFan Fanned Out Mascara is available for £17.50 at and from 18 April.

Images: Getty / Smashbox