- Tell us more about yourself. What do you do and how long you’ve been working in this industry?
I am a comedy magicienne – ‘Romany – Diva of Magic’ and I work as as solo headline act on luxury cruise ships, variety theatre shows and private events. I’ve been performing for the last 24 years. A year ago I was inspired to put all of my experience, hopes and dreams in a book and wrote my raw and honest memoir – Spun Into Gold – The Secret Life of a Female Magician which tells you all about the curious twists and turns towards my dream of becoming a performer and how I overcame many years of set-backs but never gave up.
- Who did you want to be when you were a kid?
Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller, or in retrospect, any wonderful dancer or singer I saw on Broadway or in the MGM musicals. My mum and I used to curl up on a sofa and watch them every weekend.
- What was your ‘punch in the stomach’ or when did you first realise that this is going to become your career?
The first one hit me at the age of 25. The workload at British Telecom was really stressful and I was obviously in the wrong job. Plus, at night I spent hours dancing salsa in nightclubs until the early hours and then would get up really early so I could work out to be slim enough to perform salsa in a few shows. No one told me that sleep was important! I had a nervous breakdown and ended up back living with my parents, coping with agoraphobia.
I got really angry with myself that I hadn’t listened to my own self-knowledge that I’d always wanted to be a performer. This time I knew that I was going to follow my heart, no matter what. And I did. It took me 10 years to even start making a living, but I knew that I was being true to myself and it’s all that mattered.
The second punch was when I decided to leave my husband to go to Las Vegas to learn magic. At the time it was a really tough and horrible decision to make. In hindsight, it was the right one and ended happily for us.
- What were the 3 biggest obstacles in pursuit of your career?
My body shape. I developed an eating disorder when I was 15; I was starving myself so I could dance the part of Louise in Carousel. After the show ended, I gained all the weight back and as a result had to stop dancing; I couldn’t bare seeing myself in the mirror. I was too overweight to go to stage-school, even though it was one of my biggest dreams. So instead, I went to university, graduated and got a job with BT.
I still do a lot of exercise and maintain healthy nutrition to stay within my costume, because it’s the image I want to portray on stage. My friend pointed out that I spent more time in the gym than practising magic! I think that if I were naturally slim, I could have achieved much more. On the other hand, I’m grateful that I have a healthy body. As I grow older, I realise that a healthy body is the best body to have!
Secondly, it would be my mental health following the breakdown. I had to take things slowly to avoid getting over-anxious, and post BT I also developed a phone phobia. It meant that I couldn’t phone agents or advertise myself. I still don’t make any phone calls to this date which is not great for business! I do love the social media though, so phew and hoorah for that!
And lastly, I wouldn’t exactly call it an obstacle, as I consider my husband and beloved labradoodle, Bongo, huge blessings in my life, but they do influence my career decisions. For example, I made the commitment to only work away for a maximum of two weeks at a time and have turned down offers of lucrative six month contracts abroad. The upside of this is that I really enjoy my cosy little family and home.
- Where do you find inspiration?
In vintage dance films or watching fantastic actors like Bette Davis and Judy Garland. When I listen to music, my brain transforms it into a potential magic act that I could perform on stage.
- What challenges do you face in this industry as a ‘50+ artist’?
Television wise, the market wants young slim attractive women in their twenties. 50+ men of whatever shape are considered to be interesting but there aren’t any examples of 50+ female magicians on TV. The big magic touring shows also tend to hire dancers in their twenties, especially if they need anyone to do an illusion act. I’d love to see a strong proficient woman (i.e. me!) in a show like The Illusionists. There are a few but they are definitely the exception to the rule.
Corporate wise, I think the market also prefers young artists. A women over 50 isn’t seen as ‘cool and trendy’.
However, as an author, the age doesn’t seem to matter. It’s about whether the book is any good. I find this very refreshing!
- What advice would you give someone who is about to start their career but is being told that it’s ‘too late’?
‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’ Make your art because you enjoy it, because you have fun, because you want to, and do it without counting the financial return.
When I wrote my book, I really enjoyed the process. No, I didn’t earn a penny (yet!) but it brought me great joy. It still does. I’m excited about what it will lead to.
- Do you have any idols and if so, who and why?
Pink. She sets her mind to do something, for example, train to perform a circus themed aerial show, she then does it and fills stadiums.
Reese Witherspoon. She champions women with a great story in her book clubs and films. I’d love her to make a film of my book. I’m already imaging myself at the premier, walking down the red carpet, with Bongo in a diamond collar.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of ‘Big Magic’ which inspired and motivated me to write and most importantly finish my book. Big Magic is an amazing book that confronts all of the reasons why you think ‘you can’t’. Read it!
Brene Brown (look her up on YouTube!), her TedTalk on shame and vulnerability is the 4th most popular TedTalk ever and gave me the courage to write about my struggles living with an eating disorder and anxiety. I was scared that people wouldn’t like me when they knew my secret, but the opposite has happened. Readers have sent me letters confessing to their own struggles or saying that they have been inspired to re-evaluate their lives and fulfill the dreams that they’ve given up on.
- What’s your life motto?
‘You have to relentlessly participate in the manifestation of your own blessings.’- Elizabeth Gilbert.
I think this is true. But not in the sense of ‘putting more effort’ but in the sense of allowing your heart’s desire to manifest. I’ve learnt the most efficient way of doing this is to have fun, cuddle the dog, go into nature, dance, laugh, do more of the ‘good’ things. Then, suddenly the phone rings with a great new gig!
- You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?
Magenta! Vibrant and bringing joy! Nailing my courageous flag to the mast, hoping to inspire and give courage to anyone who needs it.
You can read all about Romany’s fascinating life in her new book Spun Into Gold – The Secret Life of a Female Magician.
In just a few months, the book has got 136 five star reviews worldwide. One of them said: ‘Spun Into Gold is utterly delicious … inspiring … laugh out loud funny … gob-smacking … relatable to … magical … authentic … heart-breaking … thought provoking … real … and beautifully written. Romany is handing you her sunlight. Take it.’