When I picked up How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life I had no idea who or what Lilly Singh a.k.a. iiSuperwomanii was. When asked, people around me told me she was a famous YouTuber with a note of derision in their voices. I flipped through the pages and saw pictures of Michelle Obama and Singh herself in funny hats and I was hesitant to actually turn to page one and begin reading.
Once I started reading, I found myself in mental conversation with a collected young woman with goals and work ethic and high hopes for her readers. Singh lays out fifty chapters, divided into four parts: Master Your Mind, Hustle Harder, Make Heads Turn, and Be a Unicorn. Accompanying each chapter is a double-page spread of Singh in a new outfit posing with some props that probably have something to do with the contents of the chapter.
Like most books by people coming to writing from a visual field, How to Be a Bawse focuses more on pictures than on words. Its pages are bright, colourful, and fun. But that’s not to detract from the words. Indeed, Singh’s words are conversational in tone, peppy, and encouraging. She promises no “hopeful thoughts, lucky charms, or cute quotes,” instead encouraging you to accept the amount of hard work necessary in becoming a bawse. Still, the pages are peppered with inspirational pull-quotes and more than one Ikea-esque doodle to help you on your way.
Singh draws heavily from her own life experiences, inviting the reader into some of her most private thoughts during an episode in her past where she struggled with depression. She contrasts each of these with another episode from her life post-YouTube that highlights just how far she’s come and how grateful she is that she never gave up. Nearly every chapter has some such personal anecdote from Singh’s life, which makes her relatable, illustrates the points she makes, and goes a long way to convincing the reader that she too can be a bawse.
My biggest criticism with the book is the same as most self-help books: it doesn’t say anything new. Once you read enough of these things, they all kind of blend together. Singh’s book is no different. Without the biographical nature of her anecdotes, nothing would set this book apart. That said, if you’re a fan of the Superwoman, Singh offers some solid advice told with the expectation that you are willing to put in the work to achieve your goals. My second-biggest criticism is that Singh makes a lot of pop culture references that are going to badly date the book in the next few years.
Fun and colourful, How to Be a Bawse reinforces a number of well-known practices that contribute to success and happiness with a Superwoman twist. She uses personal stories to good effect, allowing the reader to see how each of her tips can work for them. This book is a definite hit among fans and though it doesn’t have anything new to add to already well-established practices that contribute to happiness and success, it’s not a bad entry into the self-help genre.
In lieu of a quote, I decided to share Singh’s book trailer, which she wrote, produced, and paid for herself because it was important to her.