Jill of all trades

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.”

Role model

ONCE a victim of bullying, 21 year-old Joanna Joseph is now a beauty queen and model, as well as an anti-bullying activist.

As an only child, Joanna was indulged by her doting parents who gave her whatever she wanted. This included lots of food.

In primary school she weighed 60kg and this made her the target of nasty schoolmates, and even teachers.

By the time she attended secondary school, she weighed 104kg, and was filled with insecurities.

On her first day, she fell during assembly. Instead of helping her, the students and teachers laughed at her. The only friend she had in school was another overweight girl.

The bullying got so bad, that it affected her school attendance.

In an effort to get over her insecurity, Joanna decided to do something about it.

When did you decide to lose weight?

“There came a time when I got fed up with everything and decided to try to lose weight. I was 15.”

How did you go about?

“I had an uncle who used to work in the fitness industry. He used to come by my house a lot and tell me ‘ You know you should lose weight. You will look better, you will feel better.’

“But losing weight is hard. After going to the gym I would still go [eat] nasi goreng. Then I realized [success] was 70% diet and 30% exercise. At one point I said I should be serious about this.

“I told my mom about it and she laughed. I went in the Internet and did a lot of research. I wrote down what to eat, what not to eat.”

How long did it take you to lose weight?

About three months. I used to be able to eat nasi goreng for five people in one seating. When I completely cut off rice, it must have been a shock to the system and I started loosing weight drastically. But I was eating healthy, I was not skipping meals.

“It worked. I would work out two hours everyday. I would spend one hour jogging and one hour working out to YouTube videos. It really helped me a lot.”

Do you still do that now?

I don’t have that much time now but I still watch my food.

How did you become model?

When I lost weight, a lot of photographers approached me and said I should give modelling a try. I was [just 17 and] pretty lost because [I knew] no one in the industry and my parents felt studies were more important.

“But I wanted to try something different. I managed to win a few competitions and things took off from there.”

What are you doing now?

“I currently study at MSU in Shah Alam. I am thinking of pursuing psychology or criminology. Something more exciting.”

What do you do now as a spokesperson for the anti bullying movement?

“A lot of school call me especially for their International Understanding Day [event]. A school.

“A school recently called me to talk about body shaming. Another school called me to talk about confidence.

“Whenever there is a campaign, school and institutions would call me to talk.

“I am hoping to be able to share my story with more people because I believe there are a lot of people going through it but don’t know what to do.”

Have you ever met any of your school bullies?

I did meet a few of them. They ignored me and so I ignored them. I don’t think they have the courage to come up to me anyway.”

What would you say about your younger self?

“When I was younger, I did not love myself. I fell into depression and I would hurt myself a lot. I still get depressed now and then but I cope with it better.

More than a pretty face

LOCAL artiste Iz Sulaini considers himself a singer-songwriter first, an actor second, and a dancer third.

One of the 26-year-old’s career highlights took place in 2010 when he sang a live duet of A Whole New World with Tony Award winner Lea Salonga, during her concert tour in Malaysia and Singapore.

In the same year, he also opened for international acts such as US R&B star Usher, and K-pop group The Wonder Girls when they performed in Malaysia.

He also writes jingles and corporate theme songs, including for the TV3 game show Clever Girl.

Last year, he began dabbling in theatre, first with a role as a US Marine in the production Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo.

Earlier this year, he was featured a musical The Working Dead, playing a zombie.

Currently, he can be seen as part of the musical ensemble in Adam The Musical at the KL Performing Arts Centre (klpac).

Did you always want to be a singer?

“Singing chose me, and I chose singing. I would like to believe we chose each other.”

When did you first join the entertainment industry?
“My parents pushed me into the entertainment industry when I was only three years old. I started doing TV commercials.

“Slowly, I sang jingles and did voice-overs. I started earning money at a young age.

“My parents were very supportive of me being in the creative industry. But they also emphasised on the importance of education.

“I have a degree in advertising. But I believe education is not just about degrees. Education teaches you to finish what you have started.”

What is the latest development in your career?
“My first album was released ten years ago. I am planning to cut my second album soon.

“It has seven songs in English, Malay and Mandarin.

“I have just completed shooting my first feature film Misteri Delaila, under the direction of Syafiq Yusof, where I play a photographer.

“One of Syafiq’s films Abang Long Fadil 2 collected more than RM18 million at the box office last year. It is the second highest grossing local film of all time.

“Misteri Delaila is a psychological thriller shot entirely in Fraser’s Hill, and it will open in cinemas at the end of the year.”

How do you look after your voice?

“A singer needs great stamina to be on stage. I go to the gym every day to boost my stamina.

“I have a trainer who is also my nutritionist.

“I never take sugar, salt, soy and dairy products. I make sure I have enough sleep.

“My body is an important instrument and I have to look after it.”

What advice can you give to those who want to join the industry?

“The entertainment industry can sometimes be tough and brutal. It can break your spirit if you are not careful.

“It is not enough to have talent if you want to survive in the entertainment industry.

“You must have confidence and guts, and you must learn to develop a thick skin to [handle] all kinds of comments.”

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

“Doing less work and getting bigger compensation (laughs).

“If you are willing to diversify and try new things, you can make good money in the entertainment industry.

“I never focus on one source of income. I have always had passive income.

“I don’t just sing. I also write my own songs. I am getting royalties from them.

“A lot entertainers neglect the business aspect of their career.

“They do not like to deal with [it]. They just sign their contracts blindly.

“I put my business skills into my career.

“I read my contracts very [closely].

“I make sure I benefit from what I create. I make sure that I still have copyright over my songs.”