The magician talks about the first illusion he ever performed, creating MINDFREAK and the rewards of the business.
[Popular magician and the creator of MINDFREAK and BeLIEve at Luxor
When Criss Angel created MINDFREAK for A&E in 2005, it redefined the modern magic show, and became the most successful magic show in television history; it continues to be viewed regularly by more than 100 million viewers per season in more than 90 countries. In 2008, Angel partnered with Cirque du Soleil to create and star in the thrilling BeLIEve at Luxor, which went on to garner another accolade: it has been the best-selling live magic show in the world since the day it opened.
What first drew you to magic?
I remember, after learning my first trick, that I felt this incredible sense of power that an adult didn't understand how it worked, but I did. I practiced magic tricks obsessively from that point and did my first magic show at age 12, at a neighbor's birthday party—I made $10!
What was the first trick you ever performed?
My Aunt Stella taught me my first card trick when I was 6 years old. From then on, I was hooked! My first audience was my family in Long Island. My first "assistant" was my mother, whom I levitated on a broom in our living room.
When did you realize that magic was something you could make a profession out of?
After I graduated from high school, I decided—crazy as it sounded—to skip college and pursue a full-time career in magic. My parents were NOT happy about that. The thought of my becoming a professional magician was unbearable for them. I basically just hit the road and began touring with other traveling performance acts. I studied the history of magic in public libraries. I studied the arts of mysticism, music, martial arts and even dance. It was a practical education, not a formal one.
What’s the most complicated illusion you’ve ever performed?
I’ve done a lot of really tough illusions over the course of 116 episodes of television and 2,300 live performances, but probably the most difficult thing that I dealt with was when I hung by four fish hooks, from my flesh, from a helicopter at 1,000 feet over the Valley of the Fire, which wasn’t a trick. It was incredibly beautiful and painful.
Do you have a personal philosophy or creed you’ve followed through the years?
I take a lot of inspiration and philosophy from my father. My father wound up being my biggest supporter, even when no one else thought I’d make anything of myself. During his life, he showed me how powerful one can be when the mind, body and spirit work harmoniously. By facing your fears, and believing in yourself, truly anything is possible. I’m living proof of that.
Angel on stage