Jaden Maxwell: Illusionist and builder of hope
Illusionist and motivational speaker Jaden Maxwell had his first paying job at 9 years old. “I kept checking the same magic book out of the school library over and over,” says Maxwell, “and one day the librarian — Mrs. Kelly — told me I should do a magic show for the other students and she’d pay me.”
Maxwell earned five dollars for that first show. Thirty years down the road, he makes his living doing what he loves best — using illusion as a means to connect with people and to connect people with themselves and with one another.
The Ringgold-based illusionist has performed in all but four U.S. states and in Mexico. He performed when he was in the Marines for George W. Bush (he “stole” the president’s watch right off his arm) and has performed for deaf and blind audiences.
Maxwell’s mother gave him a coin trick when he was seven years old. It was one that Maxwell’s father had in his pocket when he was killed by a drunk driver. The future illusionist was still in his mother’s womb at the time of the tragedy, a month away from entering the world.
“When my mom showed me the coin trick then showed me how it worked,” says Maxwell, “I was bummed out. Then I decided I wanted to learn to re-create the magic I felt before I knew the secret.”
There was no internet in Maxwell’s early days, so he learned magic the old fashioned way — he immersed himself in books. “Adults were amused by my interest. They thought it was cute, but not something to make a career of.”
Nevertheless, Maxwell persisted and by high school he knew magic was more than a hobby for him — it’s what he wanted to do with his life. There would be some side trips, both good and tough, along the way — his stint in the Marines, a marriage that didn’t work out, even a short time of homelessness — but he never stopped believing in magic.
“The trick is not the point of magic for me,” says Maxwell. “It’s the means to restore a sense of wonder and awe to people in a world where those things have been lost. I help people get their minds off their problems and the ‘facts’ they’re constantly collecting online and show them something they don’t understand and can wonder about and talk to each other about. I want to instill a sense of astonishment in them that inspires them with possibilities.”
One of Maxwell’s most touching experiences was when he was performing at a restaurant one evening. He saw a young woman and her father sitting at a table and the woman was crying. He felt compelled to approach them. “Do you want to see a card trick?” he asked the daughter. Her dad said yes.
Maxwell did a trick that produced a little flower and the woman started crying harder, but later in the evening, her father came to Maxwell and said, “You’re the angel we prayed for. My daughter told me she was planning to take her own life and we prayed God would send someone to help immediately and he sent you.”
“I don’t push God on people,” says Maxwell, “but I’m always ready to tell them why I’m here. My work is not about me — it’s about making moments for people that improve or change their lives.”
Another favorite outcome for Maxwell when he’s performing at a restaurant is getting parents off their phones and paying attention to their kids. “If you go to a table and start doing a card trick or a coin trick for kids, their parents are probably going to look up from their phones and get caught up in it, too, and then there will be a connection — parents and children sharing an experience together that they’ll want to talk about later.”
Maxwell says he gets invitations to perform around the world, but he wants to remain local until his two sons, ages 11 and 14, are grown. “They like magic,” he says, “but right now they both want to join the Marines.”
Maxwell performs at several local restaurants on a regular basis during the week and at universities and colleges on weekends and also does work as a consultant for other magicians and illusionists. He often performs at schools, as he did recently at Lakeview Middle School, and talks to students about substance abuse and bullying. One of his long-term dreams is to have a theater of his own.
To learn more about Maxwell’s work, visit facebook.com/ Sleevelessillusionist.
Illusionist and motivational speaker Jaden Maxwell lives in Ringgold and has performed in all but four U.S. states and in Mexico.