NOT only is she Malaysia’s first and only female magician to receive the prestigious Merlin Award, Jorinn Chee is also the youngest magician ever given the honour, when she was awarded it in 2010 at age 16.
She said: “I’ve been interested in magic since I was four, after watching David Copperfield, and Princess Tenko, who is a Japanese female magician in fancy costumes flying around, cutting people in half and setting people on fire.
“I thought to myself that what they are doing is so amazing, and I aspired to be just like them.”
The 24-year-old was able to master an array of skills, all possible only with the support of her mother.
“My mum allowed me to learn anything and everything I wanted when I was very young – from ballet to tap dancing, playing musical instruments, Chinese traditional mask-changing, magic, and martial arts.”
Her experiences have taught her to be comfortable in her own skin, as she continues to perform locally and internationally alongside her three younger brothers.
How did you learn the art of mask-changing?
“It is a Chinese performance art that is [traditionally] passed from father to son, not to the daughter, and especially not to an outsider.
“I was very lucky to have met a face-changing master. It totally sparked my curiosity and, me being me, I approached him wanting to learn, to which he replied: ‘I don’t teach outsiders because first of all, you’re a girl, and second of all, you’re not from China’.
“It was quite discouraging to hear that … I was very interested in it, at that time I was already doing magic, which is quite similar in the sense that the mask changes in the blink of an eye.
“I was lucky enough to meet the master again, who noticed my potential and determination in learning the art after watching me perform wushu and magic.
“He said to me if I really want to learn, I should go to China and look for him and, of course, I did.”
Do you ever get stage fright?
“Every single time … People always think that since I’ve been performing for so long, it should be easy.
“Every time before a show, I’ll still have butterflies in my tummy … but once the lights are on when I’m on stage, everything is fine.
“When performing on stage, you really don’t know what could possibly happen, [but] no matter what, the show must go on.
“There were a few times when I was performing outdoors, it was raining, the wind was blowing and the floor was wet.
“One time I accidentally slipped and fell, but I managed to [make it] look intentional.”
When you’re performing, how do you get into character?
“I just try to be myself as [much as] possible. I was actually a very shy person when I was younger, my character completely changes when I’m on stage.
“I didn’t know how to interact with people, I was quite introverted, but slowly I’ve come to shape my character to be more fun and approachable, and through all these performances, I’ve gained so much confidence in myself.
“Right now, my mum says I can be a bit ‘too much’ at times, and hyperactive.”
As a female magician, have you faced any discrimination?
“People did mention to me that it’s really rare to see female magicians around, and if they do, they are always the magician’s assistant.
“Perhaps because I’m the oldest sibling to three younger brothers, I started off doing magic first among the four of us, hence, my assistants are all boys, which I feel [is very empowering] as a woman.
“To date, I’ve not gotten any discrimination from the magician community. In fact, they admire [what I do].
“Some time ago, when I was performing in China – as you know, we magicians hide our props in our sleeves, pockets, long jackets and pants – because I only wear dresses and skirts, there is no space for me to hide the props, so I have to be smart and creative.
“A few of the Chinese [male] magicians were sceptical, and they were debating where I hid my appearing cane. Only at the end, were they able to figure it out.”
What do you find most exciting about doing what you do?
“Just the fact that I can be myself, enjoy what I’m doing on stage, and be able to bring joy to people. I noticed if I enjoy myself on stage, my audience actually enjoys it even more.
“Initially, when I was younger, I always thought magic shows were only for kids, until the time when I was performing at an old folk’s home when I was still in primary school.
“It made me realise that magic shows aren’t just for the kids, it’s for the very young [up] to the very old.”