The magic of Cosentino
Australia’s premier illusionist and escapologist, Cosentino is a man who constantly challenges our notions of what’s possible. I caught up with the charismatic magician during his recent visit to the Sunshine Coast, where he shared the story behind his remarkable journey from a shy boy to the international star he is today.
He first came to our attention as a contestant on Australia’s Got Talent in 2011. A young up-and-coming magician from Melbourne, Paul Cosentino (known as Cosentino) enraptured the judges and the audience with his magic and high-energy showmanship. Week after week, he astounded us with this craft, constantly pushing the boundaries, including a daring escape act in which he had to pick nine locks while completely submerged in a tank of water suspended above the ground.
He was placed runner-up in the series, but it was to be the launching pad for an incredibly successful career.
A true trailblazer in his field, Cosentino was the first Australian magician to have his own shows on prime-time television, which have been broadcast in over 40 countries.
But it’s where he came from that is the real magic behind his story. As a 12-year-old boy with learning difficulties, teased and isolated at school, he struggled with reading and had low self esteem.
“I hated reading,” says Cosentino. “School was torture for me and it was even more difficult because education was highly valued in my family. My mother is a school principal and my dad is a structural engineer.”
Understandably, the library was not a place Cosentino felt comfortable, the books representing pain and humiliation to him. Yet as fate would have it, it was during a visit to the public library with his mother that he stumbled across a magic book, and from that moment, he was transfixed.
“I remember it had pictures of famous magicians, including Houdini, handcuffed staring down the barrel of the camera,” he says. “It said, ‘Nothing on earth can hold Houdini prisoner,’ and when I asked Mum what that meant she said, ‘Nothing can stop him, nothing can hold him back, like a superhero, only real’. I was hooked and Mum was delighted I was interested in a book!
“I could barely read it but I wanted to know how to do the tricks, so Mum helped me break down the intricate instructions and over time I overcame my huge stumbling block and learned magic in the process.”
One of his fondest memories is performing the first magic trick he had mastered to his father.
“To me, my dad was a genius, he made bridges stand up using math. I made a coin disappear and my father said, ‘How did you do that’! I smiled at him and there was this transfer of power because I could do something he couldn’t.
“It kept growing from there. I had no intention to become a magician but it was a skill I was naturally good at. I remember running around the house eating fire and my brothers would tie me up with rope and throw me in the pool. We did some crazy stuff.”
Inspired by the likes of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Walt Disney and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cosentino wanted to follow in their footsteps and be an inspiration for other young children.
“They are all magicians because whether it be dancing, cartooning or martial arts, they took their craft and pioneered it,” he says.
But when it came to convincing his parents magic was his career of choice, he had some work to do.
I could barely read it but I wanted to know how to do the tricks, so Mum helped me break down the intricate instructions and over time I overcame my huge stumbling block and learned magic in the process.”
“My parents as educators were happy for me to follow my passion but naturally they were unsure if I could make a living out of it.
“I can understand how they were feeling. My father arrived from Italy as an 11-year-old migrant who couldn’t even speak English, yet he worked incredibly hard, got through university and became an engineer. My path was much more unconventional. There was no one to emulate, no one in Australia I could aspire to. I had to make my own path and lay every little brick to get there.
“That’s why I made a vow when I went on Australia’s Got Talent, that I would be that person. I wanted to make it a viable career so other kids could say I want to be a magician like Cosentino.”
And make a name for himself he did. Not bad for a shy kid who dreamed big.
Cosentino has recently released his first book, Anything is Possible – an uplifting and wholly compelling story for anyone who has ever dreamed of achieving the impossible.