Since I was a little girl, the world of magic has been steadily enticing. I grew watching Disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place, a show that was not only entertaining to watch, but that created such a rich universe of magic and the mundane world. Similarly, the whimsical feeling of getting whisked off to Hogwarts on a magical train by running through a brick wall was so captivating to my imaginative mind, and I for as long as I can remember, I thought it could be real.
When I saw Kevin Li's performance on Penn and Teller's show, Fool Us, I couldn't believe my eyes. This was it. My entire childhood had been confirmed. Magic was real. That aside, it was also a moment of inspiration for me to see an Asian-American standing on that stage, achieving something so incredible and doing it in such a smooth and professional fashion. So, I knew I had to reach out to Kevin and ask about how he felt during that experience, and learn what he hopes to tell other young people about following their dreams and defying expectations.
Huge thanks to Kevin Li for taking the time to interview with us!
1. Growing up in an Asian-American household, did you feel any pressure from those around you when you decided to pursue magic and illusion as a career? How did that change?
I felt that my parents weren't proud to tell relatives or their friends that I wanted to pursue a career in magic. No one in my family has ever done entertainment full time, so there was no one to compare me to. At the same time, many of my friends were getting job offers left and right to big companies while I continued to create and perform magic. Timing made a huge difference when it came to deciding that I wanted to go full time with magic.
2. What made you realize that you wanted to become a magician?
It was the feeling of true astonishment that I felt when I first witnessed magic in person from my grandfather. I loved magic at the get go because people were finally interested enough to talk to this introverted kid.
3. What do you hope to accomplish throughout your career?
I want people to believe in what they love to do. It wasn't in my cards to one day become a magician, but I studied and performed every moment I could, and eventually believed in myself so much that those who didn't started to as well. I want people to remember me as a kid who told stories to the world using magic, which one day will inspire them to tell theirs while doing what they love. I hope they understand that they should test different fields to one day find the one that they fall in love with. After that, they should ask themselves how they could push that industry further, where no one else has pushed yet.
4. Did you/do you still face any prejudice for being an Asian-American in the field?
People easily compare me to other Asian magicians, as being an "Asian Magician" is already a niche with a niche. They assume that I may do a certain type of magic which uses heavy dexterity and sleight of hand.
5. Did you have to make any sacrifices along the way to get where you are? If so, how did they make you grow as a person?
Dedicating time to practice and create was one of the biggest sacrifices I had to make. Time from studying all my work at school, time from going out with my friends, time from binging tv shows, and time with family were all given up in many moments of my life so that I could get to certain milestones.
6. What was your most rewarding part of your recent accomplishment of fooling Penn and Teller?
The most rewarding part of fooling Penn and Teller was that I got to showcase a never-before-seen magic routine that was genuinely me. It was created in spite of who I am, what many dream to accomplish, and respected by the masters who have inspired me so much.
7. Lastly, what advice would you give to Asian-American youths still trying to find their own passions?
You should believe in your passion or continue to find that passion even when no one else will believe in you. Do your best to learn about your culture because it is a huge part of who you are--and embrace it.
This interview was incredibly insightful even for me, so I'd like to personally thank Kevin for his words of inspiration and his unwavering passion for what he is doing. For those of you reading this, take his advice, and find your passions while embracing who you are and where you come from. Make a declaration about how proud you are to be who you are.
You can find out more about Kevin's incredible magic through his website and social media:
Author: Carina Sun
Co-founder of Declarasian; website graphics designer; pork bun and boba enthusiast.
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