When working on the James Randi Educational Foundation One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, the number one question I’m asked is, “How do you find these people?” And the answer is, they find us.
Basically, they need to state their claim on our official application, send us a letter of recommendation (If you claim you can dismiss gravity, you need to have a letter from a physicist saying that he can’t explain what you’re doing.), a piece of publicity about their power (and not a self-published book!), or a video of their power (and we vary rarely get these). All of this needs to be notarized, and then they mail it in to our offices. Simple, right?
Apparently not, because the majority of our applications are incomplete, which often inadvertently works out in our favor.
Because you get some crazy claims, and it’s not our job to say, “That’s impossible; you’re stupid!” That’s just not accomplishing anything for the applicant, or for our skeptic movement.
And you can’t say, those voices aren’t demons, they’re perhaps symptoms of a mental illness. MDC is about testing paranormal claims, not telling crazy people that they’re crazy.
So fortunately for the sake of tact we can dismiss these claims saying, sorry, but you don’t have all of the right documentation… We give them a 60 day document hold, and very rarely hear back.
Which is kind of too bad, because often I’d really like to write back and start asking them questions… Like we got this one guy, “I’ve seen several supernatural things and I was wondering if it would be included in your contest to give me a lie detector test to see if I was telling the truth and get the million bucks?”
Ok, 1, polygraphs aren’t reliable, and even if we used one, all it would prove is if you honestly believe that you say these supernatural things… And what are these supernatural things, even? And pretty much no matter what they would be, we run into another problem… Say it’s ghosts. And if we prove he saw a ghost, that only works on the assumption that ghosts exist. So whoever proved that would get the million dollars… You can’t win, guy!
So you get these seemingly wacky claims, and you’ve got to figure out what they’re saying or trying to say… And that’s the real fun in this job. I studied philosophy at UCLA with an emphasis in causation. I spent ten weeks on a term paper about two sentences of Frege, so I looooove sinking my teeth into these applications. It’s like this sentence could mean so many things!
I understand that it’s easy to write it off, saying, “Whatever, the guy just wrote it without thinking. He’s crazy, anyway…” But no, I take them very seriously.
Ideally we find someone who actually has these powers. That’d be amazing… for humanity. But for all practical purposes, the Million Dollar Challenge is basically saying, “Calling all charlatans! Calling all quacks!” So we can’t scoff when they actually come.
And if they’re taking this Challenge seriously, and if we’re taking this Challenge seriously, which everyone should since we’re dealing with one million dollars, then we need to take their application seriously.
Besides the million-dollar aspect of the Challenge, the more important point is education. People realizing, “Oh, if this is the sort of testing, maybe I can’t or shouldn’t cheat, “Or maybe these voices in my head aren’t god.”
By not laughing off their emails, and taking them seriously, at least on paper, we’re able to point out the holes in his “claim,” and explain why testing his claim, as is, would be impossible. While they most likely shrug it off, there’s still a chance that they read the email, and take in what we were saying. Maybe now they won’t be so hasty not only in their analysis of their experiences, but also in their analysis of how to interpret their experiences.
So you’ve got to figure out, what’s the claim? Sometimes you can find more than one potential claim in an application. Those are really fun! If that’s the case, which it is most of the time, I write down every option, and try to parse it down to 1-2 sentences.
Then you look and see if there are any glaring problems inherent in the claim. And if there are big problems, should we test is? Can we test it? “I will live if I jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.” Yeah, no, we shouldn’t test that… We’re not testing that. “I am the second coming of Christ,” sorry, but I don’t think we can test that. Sorry sir, but the Bible just ain’t science.
But I still get to reply to those people, and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Ok, so assuming the claim is testable, you get to move on to the best part, my favorite part. Because obviously, if it’s testable in theory, you’re still going to need a lot more information before you can dig into designing protocol.
So you need to find out what their claim actually means. And if they’ve posed multiple potential claims, and you’re not sure what it is, here’s where you ask that, too. And sometimes you may think they’re claiming one thing, but they’re really claiming something else. Remember whom you’re dealing with.
And then you need to find out the scope of their claim… What does it entail? Can they do it in a box, in a boat, in a house, with a mouse? Here’s where you get to ask all your nitty-gritty questions.
And the nittier and grittier the questions are, the better, because we need to nail them down on every last detail in order to create protocol. Because protocol has to encompass each and every finer point of their claim in order to ensure that we’re conducting the most thorough and scientific test.
What if the claim were “I can make people fall asleep!” Um, what’s the timeframe there? Can you do it immediately or over the course of six hours? Is there any particular time of day your powers work, i.e. from 10pm on? Or can you do this at any time?
And most applicants will be wormy and vague, because they don’t know, don’t care, or want to keep their options loose so they can cheat. It’s our job to keep them on track. And for better or for worse, I’ve had quite a few applicants simply stop replying to me, presumably because they weren’t quite up to this sort of highly specific back and forth. For the philosopher in me, that’s a source of pride. Especially since I’m anything but an asshole in my correspondence.
Because being an asshole would just be too easy. Not to mention, taking these applicants really seriously, as I discussed earlier, it’s a lot more effective in exposing their ridiculousness. Of course they’re more likely to listen and think about what I’m saying if they don’t feel attacked… And as I also said earlier, one of our objectives is education.
But to a more subtle point, I think that a super formal tone HIGHLIGHTS the ridiculousness. Some of the funniest Monty Python sketches work because you’ve got these serious businessmen doing silly things. The dissonance is a riot! It’s the same with your email: a formal tone saying silly things.
“Dear Sir, how did you initially come to postulate that you would be able to survive a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge?” “When you use the phrase, ‘Second Coming,’ are you referring to the description in the Book of Acts or Revelation?”
Ok, so that’s kind of overly pedantic. But the point is, when you’re formal, friendly, and polite, there’s a sharper contrast better than responding like an asshole.
And maybe it’s just my own sadistic pleasure to sit there and craft the most disgustingly polite ways to say, “For the love of Dawkins and all things holy! What does that even mean?” But that is the fun of it… And what was necessary to complete prior to creating our protocol. And I relish every moment.
I got back from Washington DC earlier this week, as I had been lecturing and performing at Magi-Whirl, which is put on by a prominent ring of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
They had asked me to speak about my career, starting from when I first got interested in magic, and eventually became the youngest Junior Member of the Magic Castle… All the way to being in BeLIEve and the shows that ensued thereafter. I did a Q&A after my talk, and had a great time communing with my fellow magicians in attendance.
That night I performed in their gala show, where I did some pieces of mental magic I’ve had in development for some time. It was a blast, and I really enjoyed perfoming things the magic community hasn’t really seen me do before.
Pluuus, I got a signed Dell O’Dell book. A total gem! Here are some photos from the lecture, of what I wore for the show, and Magical Moments:
The real key to a good smokey eye is smoking out that lower lash line. With this week’s Magic Beauty Hack, I’ll teach you how to get a flawless smudge.
I returned from NYC late last night, and had a whirlwind of a trip. I got to visit a city I love, catch up with lots of friends, and emcee and perform in the Society of American Magician’s 109th Salute to Magic show. It’s the longest running annual magic show in the US, and was an honor to be a part of it. We had an amazing line-up, and after working on mostly TV-related projects recently, it was refreshing to be back on a big stage.
I also got to see Basil Twist’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” which was incredibly thrilling. I first read a profile in the New Yorker about his insanely brilliant puppet work while I was in high school, and became obsessed. So to be able to see one of his signature shows was a dream come true. I got to tour the backstage afterward and even meet Basil. And I was a stammering fan girl for sure... Kind of embarrassing, but the whole thing was amazing.
The show is accompanied by Christopher O’Riley, whose broadcasts and music I listen to regularly, and being able to meet him and discuss his role in the show and his work, in general, was crazy. I spent quite a bit of time with him and some of the puppeteers, and picking their brains about performance art was awe-inspiring.
All in all, a phenomenal trip, but I’m happy to be back at home in LA with my bird (who’s very happy to see me [and vice-versa]) to film more videos, which will be up soon!
With this new hack, the all of your struggles with shopping for makeup are solved!
I was painfully uncool in high school, and like so many of us, I got bullied. And I certainly got bullied more if I came to school dressed in cute fashion. So I opted out. I basically dressed in camping clothes from REI, and figured it was just easier that way.
But when I got to college, a new world opened up, as I started to care a lot less about outside opinions. I was just over it. So I got more playful with my style, and what started out as simple florals and black berets turned into sparkles and fur. I was coming into my own, and I wasn’t afraid of it.
I wound up leaving UCLA early to go to Vegas and join Criss Angel’s TV show, which turned into years of live shows. Long story short, while being in the shows was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, I wound up having to swap my sequins for spikes and my lamé for leather.
However, after the injury that forced me to leave the shows (I tore my achilles in the upside-down straitjacket escape), I’ve started to come back to the things I treasure and adore: rhinestones, denim, faux fur, and lots of pink. And at the same time, I absolutely can’t resist a good Slayer tee… But I fail to see any dissonance. It’s my taste, and it’s what makes me me.
And when I concoct an outfit that resonates with me, I just want to wear it over and over. I have to force myself to switch it up! So here are four of my current favorite #OOTD’s that are all I want to wear:
Over-lining can be challenging; lip plumpers can be expensive… So today’s Magic Beauty Hack is how to get perfect lips: thick, plump, and full. With this hack, Kylie Jenner won’t have anything on you!
Or Maybe Not...
Growing up as a performer, there has always been a pressure to be thin. I’ve been told by various producers to lose weight or tone my muscles in different ways on various occasions. I’ve been told to get a boob-job, told to “figure out how to get my ass smaller”... Been criticized for being too skinny, and I’ve been called gross for my shoulder blades sticking out too far.
I just figured that that’s the business of show business, and that everyone (and I mean everyone) has an opinion. Typically, I’ve just held my own, done my own thing, but such comments can weigh on you and warp your perspective. I’ve struggled with eating, and am actively striving to improve the situation.
Clearly, though, these pressures are present everywhere, beyond working in entertainment, and much of that comes from media and advertising, which you’re already well aware of. While there are new campaigns that boast a lack of retouching, it hardly scratches the surface.
Furthermore, there are new mantras being spewed into our consciousness such as “strong is sexy,” but this still adds layers of most of us not feeling good enough. Now not only do we feel the pressure to be thin, as that hasn’t gone away, but there’s also the pressure to be fit. We have to have guns for arms, washboard abs, and perfect glutes. Most of this, still, is unattainable in an average setting.
The bottom line is that feeling comfortable in your own skin is sexy… “Healthy is sexy” is what we should be touting. However, healthy looks different for each of us. And because it's so individualized, you can’t standardize it, which means it’s hard to monetize it, i.e. come up with products to sell for it, which may mean that you can’t publicize it, i.e. media and advertising. But I’m not giving up. The real thing we should be working on is self-love, which is from what true confidence stems.
For me to be healthy, I need to eat three full meals a day with snacks in between, work out in a non-judgemental way for thirty minutes a few times a week for my mind, as well as my body, get enough sleep, and enjoy a happy beauty regime focused on my tastes. I work on practicing self-love, and concentrate my efforts on finding what’s fulfilling for me.
Mixing and Matching
Until You Find Something New
You know how some days you look in your closet and simply cannot find anything to wear? Nothing seems exciting, and you can’t muster the strength to pull anything together. Here are my thoughts on keeping it fresh.
I constantly try to push myself and piece together new outfits in different combinations. Like, would think pink velvet blouse work with these maroon bell bottoms? Can I bring forth the courage to add a large rhinestone choker to go with it? Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t, depending on what I have to do that day. However, typically, if a fashion notion kind of freaks me out, I push myself to do it until I comfortable with it.
Unless, it’s not my taste. If I’m only doing it because I saw some influencer doing it, and it doesn’t vibe with my vibe, I’ll nix it. But if it’s a style I secretly love, but am concerned it’s too weird, I do my best to run with it. It’s my world I’m living in, you know? I want to tap into what feeds my muse as much as I can.
Another easy way to change things up is to play with mixing colors. The colors may be varied, although if they’re all the same intensity, i.e. the brightness or dullness of the color, I feel they should work together. They could be colors you haven’t put together in the past, but give it a whirl. I used to do this a lot more in the past, as more recently I tend to stay in the same color pallette. So this is something I’m going to work on right alongside you.
Texture is an additional manner in which you can add new flair to your ensemble. I like mixing everything from chunky knits with lamé to dainty lace with denim… And then always layer jewelry on top. It can funk up an outfit that otherwise would have been boring or at least expected. For me, playing it safe is seldom as rewarding as taking a risk. Sometimes I regret it, but who cares? You better werk, betch.
I also try to keep a few pieces in my wardrobe that excite me as challenges. Maybe they’re a little out there, or maybe they just really struck my fancy as far as a style I’ve always wanted to explore. I try to incorporate these pieces into my look when I’m in need of a fashion pick-me-up, and they never fail me.
At the end of the day, it’s all about your taste and what you feel comfortable with. Keep experimenting, keep having fun, and keep true to yourself letting your imagination play.
Add a Little Sparkle
Today I wanted to talk about how to get that inner-sparkle to grow outward. For me, it all starts with skin care. We all know to drink a lot of water (about two liters a day, i.e. two large size Smart Water bottles), and we all know to cleanse our faces daily, etc.… So I wanted to talk about my favorite glow products that really help me up my sparkle quota.
Once I’ve cleansed (which is either First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser or Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel), I apply No7 Early Defense Glow Activating Serum. The packaging claimed that you would see a “difference” using it twice daily for a week. It was a little nebulous as to what that difference would be, but ultimately, I was fairly impressed. Not only were my worry lines diminishing, but my skin was actually more radiant and plump. For the price of twenty-five bucks at Walgreens, it’s hard to beat.
Next, for day time, I apply Glam Glow’s Glowstarter Mega Illuminating Moisturizer. I got this as a sample initially, as I’m hesitant to indulge in a fifty dollar product before making sure I’m in love with it, but I totally fell in love. Firstly, it smells great. I’m also sensitive to that, and I was pleasantly surprised. Second, it really works as a moisturizer. My skin feels supple but not slick; like, ample dewiness but not sticky. Although the real factor with this is the sparkle: it’s very fine-milled, so it’s not like, annoying, you’re-wearing-glitter-LOL sparkle. It’s more like a shimmer that I can absolutely get on board with. And because the moisturizer is technically in the color “Nude Glow,” it offers a little bit of pore blurring action, and is a nice base for my primer.
Yes! My primer! The product I’m most excited about. I use Becca Cosmetics’ Backlight Priming Filter Face, and it has changed my life. Layered on top of any moisturizer, it’s flawless; layered on top of the moisturizer I mentioned above, it’s sparkle heaven. It helps your makeup cling to your face all day, as you want a primer to do, but it adds this element of glow that I’ve found to be unparalleled. AND on casual days I’ve been finding that I don’t even need to use proper foundation; I can just layer everything right onto it. Between its light tint and its general gleaming elements, I have a beautiful luminescence, if you will, simply from this primer alone.
Now I change my foundations depending on what I’m doing during the day, but the one thing that remains in my regime is Farsali Rose Gold Elixir. (They say this is a moisturizer and primer, however I’m not a fan of that product being an oil.) It has 24k gold flakes, and vitamin E and rosehip oil, which have a lot of anti-aging properties. What I like to do is mix about three drops of it into my foundation. This adds a nice glow to whatever foundation I’m using, and additionally, it helps to reduce any cakiness that may have otherwise occurred. Voila!
Lastly, exfoliation. When old skin cells build up on your face it can start to look dull, so to maximize glow, you have to minimize this happening. Exfoliating two to three times a week refreshes everything and keeps your skin ready to shine. (But not like, gross, oily shine, of course… Ideally it’s apparent that all of this shine I’m discussing isn’t that…) The other thing is that by not exfoliating you are more prone to blemishes from excess oil and clogged pores, which nobody wants. I’ve been using Mario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub for years. It’s gentle enough to not leave you feeling like you just did a chemical peel, but sufficient enough to do the job… And do it well.
I hope some of this may help you in your sparkle journey. Feel free to reach out to me with your favorite glow products, or if anything I mentioned struck your fancy, and you tried it, let me know that, too!
For Shining Bright
As you may know, I’m all about the glow… And sparkles, and sequins... But today I wanted to talk about where it all begins: inner-glow. I know it sounds campy, but I want to shine from the inside out. But you see, my self-critic is loud, my anxiety is high, and as a perfectionist, nothing is ever “enough”. So how do you manage to emanate figurative sparkles when you don’t always feel like Beyonce?
The thing is, I’m much more than my external achievements, appearance, and circumstances. I’m coming to believe that I’m an inherently valuable person, and that I can respect and believe in myself apart from these external things or others’ opinions. I’m learning to let go of worrying because of undue feelings of guilt. I can replace worrying with constructive action. In fact, speaking of guilt, I’m trying to let go of guilt when I can’t fulfill others’ expectations, as well.
I’m even nervous to type this owing to my self-critic being mean, but I do feel that my ideas are worthwhile, and I’m working to uncover who I truly am through them. I’m learning to be myself around others, as that is taking care of my own need of staying true to myself. But this is hard, and I’m accepting the natural ups and downs of life.
I deserve good things in life as much as anyone else, and am open to discovering new meaning in life. I’m doing this through setting my own priorities and making time for what is important. I am responsible and in control of my life, and strive to be capable, brave, and relaxed.
Cut Your Hair...
Cut Your Baggage.
Set with the task of asking how a female in magic manifests herself in this day and age, I was linked up with Scotty Cunha, who is an expert in all things chic: the mastermind behind many celebs from high-end fashion to on-trend beauty… And HAIR… Did I mention hair? I must admit, I was slightly intimidated by his talent and influence, but once I met him, I knew it was meant to be.
Scotty has an infectious laugh and is quick witted and fun. I loved him immediately. I had an upcoming show, and felt ready for something new. We went through my closet, and pulled pieces that could build a look that was prime for performance, but fresh and unexpected as far as the traditional sense of “magic” is concerned.
Then finally it came time for the hair. First we tried beachy waves, as I’ve always wanted that look and have never quite been able to achieve it despite watching endless tutorials. He added extensions, and I was in my comfort zone. I’ve had hair down to my waist for for years, and this style was slightly longer than my real hair just below my shoulders.
But I secretly desired something different yet. Ever since I first saw The Royal Tennenbaums, I wanted Margot’s vibe. However, I never had the courage. My long hair was something I sort of hid behind, I think. It was as though I felt people could look at my hair and kind of ignore, well, me. It was a big deal when I swapped the extensions for my natural hair this past Summer of 2017. I felt naked for a long time, but as I knew I was seeking a refreshed approach to my art moving beyond what I had done in the past, I was growing in conviction.
So when I confessed that I had always loved Margot’s flair, he was on board in an instant. He felt it would revamp my style, and give an edge that he thought I could pull off (which is flattering, because Margot is a badass). And we went for it right then and there. I was nervous when he took out his razor blade, ready to cut.
I know it’s not technically that much of a jump from the length my hair was at that time to what it is now. However the significance of the event was substantial. I was severing ties to what I was… Who I was in a lot of ways. My hair without extensions seemed transitional, but transitional back to the extensions; like, it was a prolonged stint in between hair appointments. People would ask me all the time when I was going to put them back in.
Now it’s as though there’s no turning back. Sure, long hair is always an option, but having a definitive look with short hair is a step in a new direction. Scotty helped reassure me in my confidence that I can be bold in my style and have a laugh along the way.
While I don’t exactly come from a family of performers, I do have a bit of a performance linage. My mother was fourth in the nation in figure skating, which I literally JUST found out… Way to keep the cool stuff a secret, MOM! But anyway, her paternal grandparents were in Vaudeville, which was a live variety theater spectacular.
In the Roaring Twenties, they were on the Pantages circuit, one of the largest and most influential in North America. I always loved hearing their stories as told by family members while I was growing up.
My great-grandfather, Merrill, was the lead trombone player in the band, and my great-grandmother, Sylvia, was a dancer. Her most famous act was where she would do acrobatics on the back of a little person who rode a unicycle. Yeah. I know, right?
While I was in Criss’ Cirque du Soliel show, my grandfather passed away, and I inherited the Vaudeville photo albums. They were tattered and falling apart, and so when I was backstage after my act, I set about restoring them.
Here are some of my favorites:
Janie was the name of my great-grandmother, i.e. my mom’s mom’s mom, and she was quite the character. With a vibrant personality ripe from Texas, she would be adorned in fur and jewels even in the thick of summer. It was just her taste, and I admire her commitment!
When I started performing, my mother slowly began handing down some of Janie’s pieces to pair with my costumes (although her real jewels are in a safe). Displayed over antique magic books, here are the ones I like to make a habit of wearing: