A day in the life of a mentalist: Let passion drive your life’s direction
By LAY HSUAN, LIM
Whether you are a child or an adult, I can safely conclude that magic never fails to awe. At the end of every magic show, we are most likely to ask each other, “How did he/she do that?”
Meet Zlwin Chew, who has successfully carved his name as an accomplished magician and mentalist, as he shares with us his humble magical journey from the local to international scene.
Meet the mentalist
“A magician is generally someone who performs unbelievable feats. A mentalist is a magician who does mind magic such as thought control and mind-reading whereas an illusionist is one who does tricks with props to deceive the eye,” explained Chew when asked about the difference between the various terms used.
“No, I don’t read minds. I only use psychological subtleties and suggestions to get information I want from my audience,” quipped Chew, who has a background in psychology.
“My job scope as a mentalist is simple – to entertain people with sheer fun and enjoy myself while performing. I aim to suspend my audience’s belief, capture their imagination and lead them into a world whereby the impossible becomes possible,” said Chew.
When asked what a typical day is like as a mentalist, he described, “If I do not have a show, I will be busy scheduling meetings with potential clients to discuss new shows and magic projects.”
Being a mentalist, Chew’s stage repertoire showcases a mentalism show whereby he is able to correctly guess a random word a spectator is thinking of, impossibly bend metal and effortlessly break light bulbs by staring at them.
A leap of faith
“At the young age of 18, I was shown very unforgettable card magic by a friend. I was left greatly flabbergasted. From that point on, I knew I wanted to perform magic for people.
“Of course, I didn’t think that I’d end up with a career in magic. I guess you could say that magic chose me,” he said.
When asked how he started his journey as a mentalist, Chew said, “I did my research, joined a magician’s club and learnt from YouTube.”
“I knew that performing magic at clubs was a common thing abroad, but it was something new in Malaysia. So, I took a radical step by sending out emails to 20-odd clubs in Malaysia requesting a job as a magician. I was then just a 19-year-old student and a young magician without professional experience,” said Chew.
“Zouk Club KL (Kuala Lumpur) was the only club which responded and dared to believe in me. Thus, I started working there as their resident magician while I was still in university.
“Eventually, I decided to leave studies to pursue my dreams full-time. This worked for me personally, though I really wouldn’t encourage others to do that,” Chew said.
“One of my role models would be Steve Cohen, known as the Millionaire’s Magician. Story has it that for two years, he set up a parlour magic show in a rented theater.
“He did the unthinkable, i.e. he paid people to watch his shows! He paid his friends and anyone who would accept his money to see him perform. In those years, he lived like a pauper.
“Breakthrough eventually came and now he performs his sold-out show weekly to a small audience of wealthy folks at the prestigious Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. An outrageously radical man indeed,” said Chew on his magical influence.
Pain in pursuit
Along Chew’s journey to where he is today, he had to face many rejections but persevered through it all.
In his inspiring TEDxINTIIU talk in 2013, he spoke of a time when he had to leave a magician’s club, a club where he had bonded very closely with its members after learning and sharing the magic trade with each other.
The president of the club thought Chew was never good enough as a magician, even after he landed himself as one with Zouk.
Chew was also perceived to be “spoiling” the magician’s market in Malaysia by performing for free or charging a minimal fee.
Chew could have given up that day after being told in front of the club members he was not good enough, but he journeyed on. From his stint at Zouk, he learnt much from his mistakes and continued to improve his tricks.
Open doors and breakthroughs
The rest, as they say, is history. Chew has since had the opportunity to perform in front of our country’s honourable dignitaries such as the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Syed Sirajuddin ibni Syed Putra Jamalullail and former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
An avid traveler himself, Chew’s magical journey has paved the way for him to travel and perform in many places around the world such as the Philippines, India, United Arab Emirates, Australia and Turkey.
To add another feather in his cap, Chew has even been acknowledged on his Twitter account by David Copperfield, the legendary master magician himself.
Chew was also one of the speakers in the Career Talk Series organised by Student Engagement Centre, a national platform that aims to connect Malaysian personalities who are living their passion and have achieved local or international recognition, to inspire students to excel beyond their academic responsibilities.
Early this year, Chew was invited by Intel Malaysia to address their internal staff to share his passion, journey, dreams and success.
Wizard’s wise words
“Be mindful that in this line of work, you cannot sit and wait for good fortune to knock on your door. You will need to be proactive to hunt for opportunities out there.
“For those who are interested in becoming a magician, be ready to rise and fall. Be bold and creative. Make room for failure, but allow yourself to be helped. Grow wings, leave the nest of comfort and be willing to take calculated risks,” said Chew.
“Most importantly, don’t put money above your passion. I always believe that if you pursue your passion wholeheartedly and sincerely, money will eventually come. And, of course, never give up!” concluded Chew, citing his faith, family and loved ones as his pillars of strength.