In a world where everything seems to have a logical explanation and cynicism is the lingua franca, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to feel a true sense of wonder. But not when you’re in the company of Ariann Black. Watching her perform is like being a kid again; amazed – astounded, even – and reawakened with a sense that anything really is possible.
Ariann is one of a handful of female magicians in the world who have defied the traditional perception of a magician and attained global celebrity. Her magic regularly inspires awe in her Vegas shows, television appearances and gigs throughout the world. Her warm sense of humor, infectious laugh and down to earth personality make her feats all the more mesmerizing, one moment funny, the next poetic – like watching a ballet of fingertip miracles.
As a girl of four-years old living in Edmonton, Canada, Ariann’s cousin would show her magic tricks. It was a transformative experience. “I would see them and think, wow, how cool,” Ariann recounts with delight. “Then I would go home to figure them out, and when we’d go and visit three or four months later he’d have a new trick and I’d have to figure that one out. I would come up with my own method and sometimes it would be the same method and sometimes it would be completely different. Because in magic, what you see and what you remember are often two different things.”
A lesson that serves Ariann well to this very day.
When Ariann was six-years old, she paid her first visit to a magic store, a reward from her Mom after a trip to the doctor’s office. “I was completely fascinated,” says Ariann. “The gentleman who ran the magic shop showed my mother and I some tricks, and of course I was blown away. But when he found out the tricks were for me, he told her that magic was for boys and he refused to sell her anything. Different times.”
Fortunately, the story has a presto moment. Ariann continues, “My Mother was furious, but it turns out there was another magician in the store who heard what happened and followed us outside. He taught us the secret, and he said there were books at the library and that I should go and get them. But the most important thing he taught me– something that many magicians never figure out – was that you don’t have to buy stuff in a magic shop. You can create magic from everything that’s around you, and because you’re working with authentic things from real life, it makes the magic all that much more engaging and mysterious.”
Not many of us pick a career at the age of six, but for Ariann, the choice was easy. “In school I used to tell my friends I was going to be a professional magician and everybody used to laugh at me.” Ariann smiles. “Needless to say, I didn’t necessarily have a lot of friends.” By the time she was twelve, Ariann was doing shows professionally as Alice in Wonderland. “I’d seen Doug Henning on television,” says Ariann, “Prior to that I’d only seen magicians who wore black and had goatees … you know, the stereotype. But when I saw Doug, I realized that you don’t have to look the stereotypical way. That you can really be yourself and still be a successful magician. He was a tremendous influence.”
After studying musical theater in college, Ariann moved to LA, where she became friends with Henning. “I got to hang out at his warehouse. He encouraged me, and told me that if I were true to myself I would be successful. He was such a wonderful, kind man. He died so young, only 52. Same as a deck of cards.”
Ariann later moved to New York, where she honed her craft working the Catskills and cruise ships. It paid off. She got a gig as house magician for Donald Trump at Trump’s Castle in Atlantic City, and she began traveling throughout the world performing her show. After four years, Vegas beckoned, and Ariann has been performing there ever since, receiving rave reviews and gaining a reputation as one of Vegas’ must-see performers. “I love what I do and I think that comes across when I’m performing,” Ariann says. “I’ve always thought I was the luckiest person in the world, not just to discover what I love to do, but to actually be able to make a living at it.” Ariann’s love of magic has been acknowledged by her peers with the award of Female Magician of the Year Internationally, which she won in 2004, 2008, and most recently for 2009.
Our friendship with Ariann began when we opened our branch in Las Vegas. “I was so happy when First Entertainment appeared. My father was a teacher so I was used to the concept of credit unions.” As Ariann continues, she fiddles with a coin, effortlessly making it appear, disappear and seemingly fly over her fingers. The effect is hypnotizing. “I love the idea that First Entertainment has a vested interest in your success. Their rates are great, and I love First500. Plus, they totally get show business. Take it from me. Go anywhere else and tell them you’re a magician. Good luck.”
Well, we might get show biz, but we have no idea how Ariann does her magic. How she produces all those birds is totally beyond us, and frankly, we prefer it that way. Keeps the wonder alive.
Special thanks to the Magic Castle in Hollywood for graciously opening their doors for our photo shoot. For more information about the Magic Castle, please visit www.magiccastle.com