Zlwin Chew is a distinguished magician hailing from Malaysia. He started his career as the first magician ever to hold a residence in a night club. His outstanding skills, talent and showmanship are undoubted and they have gotten him a lot of attention both from the media but also other notable figures from the magic community. The great David Copperfield has even come to personally praise Zlwin for his talents. From performing in night clubs in his early days, Zlwin has since progressed on to perform at many stages across Asia in front of multitudes of audiences. He has certainly established himself through his talents, hard work and vision, as one of the most prominent magicians in Asia. As such, he has even personally performed for many eminent figures like the King of Malaysia and other heads of state. His story is truly one of inspiration.
An incredibly intelligent and cheerful person, we have the privilege of hearing from Zlwin today about his thoughts on his success and his insights and views on the magic industry of Asia.
Tell us a little about yourself, Zlwin.
I’m a radical and a have a deep wanderlust. I started magic when I was 18, learning simple magic from YouTube and then got more hooked on magic. I then involved myself into a magic club in Malaysia and was with them for 1 year before I moved out and started performing shows on my own. I’ve been told I couldn’t make it out there because I wasn’t good enough and I would spoil the magic market. Not heeding those voices, I moved on and ventured out on my own. I do not sit and wait for opportunity to come. I go out and find my opportunities and make my own opportunities. The Roman philosopher Seneca, advisor to Emperor Nero, quoted “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” So I’d say that I am pretty lucky to be where I am today.
When did you become to become a Magician and why?
I’ve always loved working with people and surrounding myself with fun people. Performing magic allows me to be who I really am: an entertaining person. I love magic because it is a powerful medium to bring adults back to becoming a child. For a brief moment in time during a magic effect, the matured adult loses his train of thoughts and for a brief moment, his logic is suspended, and he becomes a child once more; believing that anything is possible. For when we were children, everything around us was magic: the rising of the sun, the blooming of flowers, the transformation of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. However when we grow older, we lose that sense of wonder. Magic is able to bring back that moment of childlike wonder in all of us. That is why I decided to become a magician.
Is there a process to becoming a Magician?
There is no process to become a magician. You just need to have the passion for magic and the respect for it as an art. And you have to learn and practice magic and well, soon enough, you can call yourself a magician.
So how did you break into the industry initially?
When I was 19 years old. I had the most radical idea of performing at clubs as their Resident Magician. I know that in other countries such as Europe or the USA, it’s common to have magicians working in the clubs, bars and restaurants. However in Malaysia, it’s not our culture to do this. So I want to be the first to start. I had no experience under my belt at all. But what I had was a strong passion to do good magic. I sent out a proposal to many clubs around KL, none of them replied except one: Zouk Club KL. They interviewed me and soon enough I was their Resident Magician for 4 years before I moved out to travel overseas performing. This was my first big break, one that was so risky but courage got to me.
What were some of the challenges you faced in becoming a magician?
I had no money to invest in learning materials and props. I had no car to travel to my shows and had to rely on public transport most of the time. And above all, probably the toughest challenge is to change people’s perception of magic and magician. Let me give you an example, when you tell people you are a doctor they will go with all respect, “Wow. That’s awesome. You must be making a lot of money.” However, when you tell people you are a magician, their thinking and respect of you and what you do immediately goes down to ground zero, “Oh I see. Magician. Hey, show me a trick.” The common perception of the public towards magician is that magicians are mere tricksters with a deck of cards going around fooling people. They are not to blame, because there are indeed of low class tricksters out there who uses magic to seem more intellectual or above others. And because of these “magicians”, the public don’t like magic. But I am out to change this view. Magic is an art and like any art, it is beautiful and should and must be treated with the utmost respect. By the way, magicians can earn more than doctors, both in monetary terms and satisfaction in vocation. We tend to love what we do more than others liking what they do for a living. That’s a big plus.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Keep honing my skills. Be better and better. There’s a simple rhyme from my pastor, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good becomes better and your better becomes best.”
You spoke of the medical profession earlier, what do you think are the fundamental differences between your profession and others?
Being a magician is probably one of the hardest profession in the world. A magician in one workday goes through more objections from people compared to other professions. Performing magic requires you to turn strangers to friends in a matter of 5 seconds. And in 5 minutes, if they don’t like what you do, they walk out on you. I interact with total strangers everytime when I perform, be it a stage show or walkabout magic. We need to be able to choose the right audience to participate in our act and to control them on stage and give them clear cut directions to follow. We read people all the time. Being a magician requires your heart and soul to be fully invested in the art and in people.
What are some of the current challenges you face at the moment?
We magicians are always faced with the challenge of reinventing old magic and learning new magic all the time. We cannot go around the world performing just one magic effect. I need to spend a lot of time reading, learning, researching and more reading.
Would you take a different approach if you had a second chance?
No. Even if I could turn back time, I wouldn’t.
From your experience, what can you tell us about the magic industry in Asia?
The industry of magic in Asia is pretty welcoming. There is still a huge demand for magic in the entertainment field. Everyone loves magic and loves to see things that are considered unreal. So it’s pretty good.
Is the magic industry more competitive in Asia as compared to the West?
There is competition everywhere. The better man has the higher chance of succeeding.
Could you share with us some important insights that you have gathered through your experience as a magician?
Be humble. This may be the most cliché advice, but it still rings truth on all levels! People like you when they know you are genuine in intention and heart. People are not stupid. When you want something, ask, do not sugarcoat your requests and beat around the bush. Speak your mind and heart.
Be lovable. You need to be a person that has a heart for people. I spend time with my audience after show just sitting down and chit chatting.
Don’t be a fake. I cannot elaborate more about this. It’s a crystal clear advice.
Probably one of the most outstanding lesson I’ve learnt is this: Be prepared and don’t wait for opportunities, go out and look for them, if not, make opportunities. All my life as a magician, I’ve gotten big breaks because I went out in search of opportunities, making my own most of the time. I got my big contract with Star Cruises and Resorts World Manila not from referrals, I had no contacts. What I did was spent 2 hours on the internet hawking and searching for people who might be working in the entertainment business in Star Cruises. So I found one guy, made a long proposal and emailed him. To cut the long story short, I am here today working closely with him. You see, once you are prepared and ready to perform anything and do good shows that people would pay for, your opportunity will come. These two work hand in hand. Seneca couldn’t be more right on the money.
Don’t chase fame and glory. I know many friends who want to be magicians because they thought it was all cool and nice and they could get all the girls they want. This is the greatest downfall. Fame will naturally come when you do what you do and do it good. Fame will naturally come when people notice how good you are at doing what you love and loving what you do. I did not for one second thought I’d be “well known” when I started magic at 18. In fact if you were to tell me when I was 18 that, “Hey Zlwin, in 3 years time you would be traveling the world performing big shows.” I would have laughed and thought you a fool.
What was the happiest and most memorable moment for you in your career as a magician?
The happiest and most memorable experience for me was when I saw how proud my parents were of me.They would keep and frame up my newspaper interviews, magazine interviews, and proudly show them to their friends when they visit. They would watch my videos on YouTube and constantly update themselves with my work and career.
What would you say is the saddest?
The saddest moment was when my friends and people I looked up to told me straight to my face, “Zlwin, you are not good enough to perform magic. And if you go on like this, you will never make it.”
Have you ever had any embarrassing performances that you remember?
In the words of Frank Sinatra, “Regrets I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” I’d say. “Yes, I’ve had some embarrassing moments performing, but then again, too few to remember.”
Is there an art behind a successful performance?
Practice, practice, practice. And more practice. And practice. And practice. And more practice.
In your opinion, what makes a person successful?
The answer is, “Doing what you love and loving what you do.” And “Do all you can to succeed, but never at the cost of others.” I’d quote my favorite author, Paulo Coelho, “Chase your dreams, transform your life.”
What is your definition of success?
My definition of success is still what I mentioned above, “Doing what I love and loving what I do.” So long as I am doing what I am passionate about, realizing my dreams, I don’t care if it makes me rich or could afford me a sports car. These material things are not of my interest. Joy can only be found when you know what you are born for. Many people go around trying to find joy and satisfaction in material things and they can never find it. Another favorite author of mine, Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, wrote this: “It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us. Being a teacher is meaningful.”
What drives you as a person?
Jesus. Jesus is what drives me. I want to be good in what I do and play a role in elevating the art of Magic. I want people to go with respect when they find out I’m a magician, “Wow that is really something! You must be making a lot of people happy.”
Could you share an important piece of advice with our readers out there?
There are so many, but if there is one, I’d go for, “Do what is noble.”
Do you have a routine that you go through everyday?
I wake up. I spend time reading books. I spend time practicing magic whenever and wherever. Even when I am driving, getting stuck in traffic or queuing for coffee. I spend time with my family. I reply emails. I post a lot of things on Facebook. I am very active there. I go looking for new opportunities. I drink good coffee. Americano being my favorite. I invest time in my girlfriend and in our relationship. I walk and talk with God. I go to bed counting my blessings.
Connect with Zlwin today:
Email: [email protected]