When NAV, a rapper signed by The Weeknd’s XO record label, said he was “the first brown boy to get it poppin’ ” he wasn’t too far from the truth — even though it was perhaps, slightly boastful. It turns out that NAV isn’t the only South Asian creative from the Toronto area to break through to the global stage. These creatives are showing their potential in every artistic industry out there — from music, to entertainment, to literature.

Below are some of the most talented Torontonians, all repping the state of Punjab in India, making moves on the global stage.

Lilly Singh

When you think of the first brown girl to “get it poppin’,” most would agree on one familiar household name: Lilly Singh. The young woman started off making YouTube videos in her parents’ Markham home and has since conquered Hollywood by making history as the first LGBTQ+ person and the only woman to host a broadcast TV late-night talk show in America.

With over 14 million subscribers on YouTube, people can’t seem to get enough of her exciting yet humble energy.

Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur’s elegant, minimalist approach to poetry has made her one of this generation’s notable writers. With over 2.5 million copies sold and 77 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, Milk and Honey — her debut poetry collection — is a work worth celebrating. 

Since then, she has released The Sun and Her Flowers, another ode to her cross-cultural experiences, and has just recently announced a new book on its way, home body, which will be released on November 17. 

Kaur writes vulnerably about femininity, power, love, and pain. Growing up in Toronto to an immigrant family, her writing is influenced by her Sikh heritage. Kaur has led a new movement in poetry, influencing many modern poets to follow in her footsteps of a minimalist, concise approach. 


There’s a reason why brown boys in Canada are obsessed with NAV. Perhaps the only South Asian to gather such a following in rap, an industry predominantly dominated by Black people, NAV’s confident sound has led him to major success around the world. 

The rapper has collaborated with the likes of Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert, Drake, and The Weeknd. He continues to pave the way for South Asian representation in one of the most popular genres of music for the new generation.

The future of Punjabi creators

Though many South Asian students feel the need to pursue conventional, more financially safe career paths, these Toronto creatives exemplify that breaking through the mould is possible, and can lead to just as much — or even more — success. This new generation of Punjabis in Canada is paving the way for second-generation South Asians to be represented more in North American artistic industries.

Beyond the biggest names, there are many upcoming Punjabi Torontonians who show true promise. Take Mani Jassal, for example, a graduate from Ryerson University and a modern South Asian fashion designer. Another rapper, MC Fateh Doe, has collaborated with big-name Bollywood music producers, as well as famous YouTuber JusReign. These newer creatives are bubbling with new ideas and fresh voices, all emerging from Toronto.

Toronto and the GTA as a whole have one of the largest populations of diasporic Punjabi communities, with Brampton, Scarborough, and Markham as hubs for many immigrant families to settle in. One of the results of this large diasporic community is an extreme fusion of South Asian and Canadian lifestyles, which many of these creatives touch on in their art. 

It is an understatement to say that Toronto is hatching some noteworthy Punjabi creatives, and this talent has not just impressed our locals, but rather reached a global audience, making all Canadians proud.