Lilly Singh, the trailblazing comedian, YouTuber and late-night talk show host, welcomed a constellation of stars to her annual Diwali extravaganza last week in LA—and she’s given us an inside look.
The event reunited Singh with her closest family and celebrity friends, including Mindy Kaling, Raven-Symoné, Sophia Bush, Victoria Justice, and more, for a celebration of ‘Love and Light’.
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, holds profound cultural significance to many Indian communities, and Singh, in collaboration with Johnnie Walker, made sure to tie in many of her own family’s traditions to the celebrations.
“I always feel a mix of gratitude, excitement and anxiety because I have a hard time believing that I pulled it off,” says Singh. “There’s a little bit of disbelief of ‘did I actually pull that off? Did everyone come? Did everyone have a good time?’ and I get in my head about it.”
Growing up, Diwali was a small and intimate affair at the Singh household. Her family would indulge in lots of food, Indian sweets, prayer, and hand making diyas.
“This party has the DNA of that, but definitely encompasses a lot more. There’s still a lot of food, there’s spirituality, love and unity, and togetherness with friends and family that are all similar to Diwali’s I had growing up, but bringing my community of people together in a larger way.”
Admitting that “in all things for South Asians, it’s about the food”, Singh made sure to serve a wide range of Indian-inspired appetizers, mains, and desserts, including a noodle bar and many Hakka (Indian-Chinese) fusion dishes.
“This is actually the first year there were no leftovers! We’ve finally cracked the science three years in.,” she jokes. “We even had a midnight snack!”
Of course, no party is complete with just food. For the third year in a row, Johnnie Walker signed on as a lead party partner, working to create a selection of unique specialty cocktails specifically for Singh’s celebration.
“I really appreciate and love my partnership with Johnnie Walker because it’s so much more than a brand just saying ‘here, we’re going to sponsor your party’,” she says.
This year, the cocktails included Girl Math (Johnnie Walker Black Label, Lemon, Ginger, and Cardamom Honey), Mojo Dojo Mango House (Ciroc Blue Dot, Mango, Lime, and Saffron Agave), and Rishta-Pista Lassi (Tequila Don Julio Blanco, Lime, Pistachio Orgeat, and Rose Water).
“It’s exciting for me because they’re taking interest in a culture that maybe they’re not totally familiar with, but they’re making every effort to genuinely dive into it—which I really appreciate,” says Singh. “I also really like that the specialty cocktails are presented to me from them. They will present me with cocktails where I’m like ‘damn, these are really good Indian cocktails!’
“I would not be able to throw these parties without their support.”
Passionate about making her Diwali parties bigger and better each year, Singh also makes sure party-plan around the thins than annoy her about going to other events.
From arranging free slides for guests change into if they need a more comfortable shoe to dance in to hiring lots of event staff to bring food directly to guests ( “I hate feeling hungry at events!”), she left no hosting stone unturned.
“Last year so many people didn’t have safety pins for their sarees that were falling off, so this year I included a full touch up kit in the restrooms,” she says. “I enjoy hosting so much that I arrived at the party 1.5 hours early just to walk through as a guest to have that guest perspective of what I would need. I’m pretty extra like that!”
So extra, in fact, she makes sure every guest gets a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label to take home with them.
“I think in general, I enjoy working with brands where we have synergy and aligned values, but that are not one-off partnerships,” she says. “It’s an excitement level for them as well and I think that’s what is important when I think about my business.
“It’s not about the quick paycheck or the one-off post. It’s about really building a partnership and really being collaborative. Johnnie Walker and I have always been like that.”