Shin Lim: biography
Shin Lim is a Canadian-American magician most known for his skill in sleight of hand and card manipulation. On stage, he is also silent as he sets up and performs his elaborate Shin Lim card magic tricks to music. He taught himself magic routines at a young age through YouTube videos. He has since then shared some of his tricks on YouTube himself.
Lim was originally trained to become a pianist. He was eventually diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, which prompted him to switch to magic instead. He was discovered around 2012 and then began his Shin Lim tour in international stages. In 2015, he won the Close-up Card Magic in the World Championship of Magic held in Blackpool, England by the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques.
His fame grew even bigger when he appeared twice on Penn & Teller: Fool Us, where he successfully fooled professional magician duo Penn & Teller with sleight of hand both times. Shin Lim AGT participation paved the way for him to win in the 13th season of America’s Got Talent in 2018 as the second magician to win the title. He would then continue to win America’s Got Talent: The Champions.
Lim was born on September 25, 1991, in Vancouver, Canada. He is the second of three children from Singaporean parents and is ethnically Han Chinese. When he was two years old, their family returned to Singapore. They would then move to Acton, Massachusetts when he was 11 years old. Lim went to the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and showed a keen interest in music at a very young age.
He was given a violin by his grandmother, but he smashed it to pieces after a frustrating practice lesson. He then switched to learning the piano. To continue his studies in music, he went to Lee University’s School of Music in Tennessee.
Apart from music, Lim was also interested in magic at a young age. Yi, his older brother, showed him a simple card trick. This sparked the young Shin’s curiosity, and when he asked his brother how it was done, he was told to find instructions on YouTube. Lim dove deep into the videos available at the time and taught himself several tricks. As his expertise in the field grew, he began to make up his own tricks and upload them to YouTube to show his techniques and performances to the world.
Lim was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome at the age of 20. This would make it really difficult to complete the Lee School of Music’s requirement to spend about 20 hours a week to practice piano. He took a leave from the school and eventually dropped out to live with his parents and pursue magic as a career. He continued to produce and upload Shin Lim magic videos to YouTube while developing tricks to sell to interested buyers. Lim uses his experience in music to turn magic performances from simple tricks to fool people to actual artistic shows. He uses music and musical cues to add flair to his performances while he stays almost completely silent. Lim has compared his performances to the film Inception, in that it is accessible to the masses while remaining artistic in its production.
He first participated in the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques’ (International Federation of Magic Societies) World Championship of Magic in 2012. His resolve to continue in his career was shaken when he finished sixth in his category. In 2013, he was contacted by an agent who watched his performance in the World Championship of Magic. He was asked to tour across China.
Lim agreed and made some changes to his performance. He did not speak Chinese, so he dropped any narration that he had in his tricks and focused on using music and gestures to interact with his audience. He also added 20 minutes’ worth of tricks to all of his shows. Lim became the final act of the show by the end of his Shin Lim tour.
He would return to compete in the World Championship of Magic in 2015 with his new style. He won the prize for best Close-up Card Magician tied with Horret Wu from Taiwan. While there wasn’t a million dollar prize, the competition is seen as a place for producers to find and contact new talents. He became part of The Illusionists, a rotating cast of magicians and illusionists that tour around the world as a Broadway-style magic show.
Shortly after winning World Championship of Magic, Lim appeared on the second season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, a show which had professional magicians perform and attempt to trick veteran magician pair Penn & Teller. After his performance, he was praised by the host Penn Jillette for his artistic performance before admitting that they were fooled. He then appeared again on the 4th Season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us after an accident severed two of his thumb tendons. His performance went smoothly which led to him fooling Penn & Teller on stage for the second time.
Shin Lim fiancée encouraged him to perform in America’s Got Talent. Shin Lim and Casey Thomas worked together in making his routines better. On the 13th season of the show, Lim was selected to be one of the contestants. He then won the show on September 19, 2018. He won $1,000,000 and the chance to be the headline act of the Paris Theater in Paris Las Vegas. In his performance during the competition, he added some variations into his regular routine. He added more dialogue in his performance and showed some of his background as a pianist for the finals.
Simon Cowell, one of the show’s judges, advised Lim after the quarterfinal performance to step back from the card table and add some larger elements and to let his personality show in the performance if he wanted to win. He would then be invited to perform in America’s Got Talent: The Champions, which was filmed right after he won the 13th season. He won this The Champions after beating season 12 champion, ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer.
Lim has received several awards for his magic performances. In 2010, he received the first prize in the World Teen Close-Up Magic tournament. In 2011, he competed in a contest held by International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM), where he won first place for the Adult Card Magic category and the People’s Choice Close-Up category. In the same year, he won the Adult Card Magic category again in a competition jointly hosted by IBM and the Society of American Magicians(SAM).
In 2014, he won the People’s Choice awards in the joint IBM and SAM competition. He then won first place for Adult Card Magic and People’s Choice again in 2015 at the IBM North America competition. In 2018, the International Magicians Society awarded Lim with the Merlin Award for Best Close-Up magician.
Lim currently resides in Los Angeles, California and has American and Canadian citizenship. He is currently engaged to Casey Thomas, an Australian dancer. They met while she was a magician’s assistant in a show he was watching. They have been engaged since August 19, 2017.
Shin Lim’s net worth is estimated to be around $1 million.