Magic is a men’s world, judging by the small number of female magicians in this industry. Some of us have never seen a female magician performing or they haven’t even thought about it. Female magicians are rare, even though more and more talented women break into the business. Anyhow, less than 10 percent of magicians are women, and those who do magic tricks for a living find themselves lost in a sea of men at magic conventions. Some of the reasons why there are so little female magicians include:
• For centuries, the Western world has seen women practicing magic as a faux-pas – just think about the witch hunt – even if magic as a performing art is something completely different, the two fields do have some aspects in common, thus making magic a field mostly closed to ladies.
• Places where you could study magic before the Industrial Revolution were only open to men and it took a while for women to gain access to magic teachings.
• Girls and women have a smaller interest in magic compared to boys as they reach their teenage – the lack of female magic tradition could be the one to blame, again.
• Magician costumes are designed with men in mind, and clothing for women makes it harder to perform some magical tricks.
• Traveling alone as a woman was not acceptable until recently, which made it hard for female magicians to perform in various places around the world.
• Being a successful international magician means you need to travel a lot and give up family life – most female magicians who have children need to take a step down to concentrate on family life.
Even if odds seem to be against female magicians, in the last years mentalities have changed and more and more women have taken up this art, following the example of the Eastern world, where female magicians are far more common. Here are some women performing magic successfully:
1. Fay Presto
Fay Presto is a British trans woman who is a member of The Inner Magic Circle. Born in 1948 as Oliver Winter, Fay Presto (the stage name for Letitia Winer) was voted ‘Party Entertainer of the Year’ by Tatler Magazine. She appeared in the BBC2 40 Minutes documentary, “Illusions of Grandeur”, about her life. Channel 4 voted her “Bottle Thru Table” trick as the 37th Greatest Magic Trick of All Time. Fay is the creator of a new genre of close-up magic and she often performs in London restaurants. She is involved in causes like the rights of women and the LGBT community, and she also donates a large amount of her time to action for children work.
2. Misty Lee
Misty Lee is not just a professional magician, but also a voice actress and comedian. She discovered her interest in magic at the age of 16 and followed this career in spite of studying dentistry. Misty has been performing Houdini séances since 2010, when she became a staff séance medium at Hollywood’s Magic Castle. Misty Lee is the first female magician in history to hold this position. She is trying to communicate with the famous magician by using artifacts Houdini has owned, although Houdini opposed to these types of practices and considered them to be charlatanism. Another interest of Misty Lee is activism against domestic abuse, as a way to repay her mother who had suffered verbal abuse for a long period of time.
3. Magic Babe Ning
Now known as Mind Magic Mistress, Magic Babe Ning is a Singaporean magician, escape artist, illusionist, and entrepreneur – following the tradition of female magicians in the Asian world. Channel News Asia called her South East Asia’s first professional female magician and her work has helped to popularize magic in Singapore. Her physical appearance and glamorous style have helped her build a successful career, until 2014 when she announced her retirement. However, in 2017 she made a return as Mind Magic Mistress, concentrating on mentalism tricks, saying that mentalism was her first love as a magician. During her retirement from magic, Magic Babe Ning wrote several books and also focused on her personal life.
4. Kristen Johnson
Kristen Johnson is best known for her escape acts and she works with her magician husband Kevin Ridgeway under several names, including Breathless, Living Illusions, and Ridgeway&Johnson. Johnson’s interest in magic started in childhood, as her mother performed as a clown and also did magic. Later, Kristen performed magic to earn money to help her pay college tuition. Her most successful act is Full View Water Torture Cell – Johnson is chained inside a water filled tank, from where she escapes in the full view of the audience. A more recent act features Kristen passing through the turbine blades of a 747 jet engine.
5. Dorothy Dietrich
Dorothy Dietrich is a stage magician and escapologist, known for several premiers: the first woman to catch a bullet in her mouth, and the first woman to escape from a straitjacket while being suspended high in the air from a burning rope. She was included among the “eight most noted magicians of the late 20th century” by Columbia Encyclopedia, and she is called the female Houdini for copying many of Houdini’s escape acts, including one that Houdini backed away from – the Jinxed Bullet Catch Stunt. Dorothy grew up in rural Pennsylvania with six brothers and her desire to perform magic and escapes started after reading a biography of Houdini in her childhood. Dietrich has a large number of television appearances and is also involved in the world’s only continuous travelling Houdini exhibit.
Once they become interested in female magicians, magic fans discover a fascinating world, where women perform acts as stunning and mind-blowing as men, if not more. The times when women only served as magician assistants are gone, and the Western world has become more receiver of female performers. Watching a female performing magic has started to become a natural thing and no longer an exception to the rule, and these professionals are often credited for warming the audience more than their male counterparts.