I'm A Celebrity 2020: Illusionist Paul Cosentino Appears In Camp With A Few Tricks Up His Sleeve
One of Australia’s biggest names in magic, there’s one surprising thing that might make Paul Cosentino say ‘I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here’: Bacon.
Having performed around the world, with several specials and series’ under his belt, the magician, illusionist and escape artist said magic wasn’t just a passion, it was something that helped him overcome severe learning difficulties and shyness.
Now, he’s hoping his bag of tricks will help him ease into his next challenge: life in the ‘I’m A Celeb’ camp.
Speaking to 10 daily before heading into the jungle Cosentino said he had learning difficulties which meant he couldn’t read until he was 12-years-old. One day while in the library he picked up a magic book full of old vaudevillian pictures of magicians from the 1900s.
The mystical hand-drawn illustrations of these men with devils and skulls on their shoulders drew him in so much that his mum borrowed the book and would read to him the stories and adventures of these famous magicians.
“In the back of the book they had magic tricks,” he said, “Mum would read the tricks to me at night before bed. They’d say things like, ‘hold the deck of cards in your left hand, this is called the mechanical grip’, I’d read the words, look at the drawing and practice.
“By reading the words, analysing them, looking at the pictures and physically applying them I learned to read. I wasn’t just listening to a story, I was participating.”
Practicing magic also meant Cosentino was practicing his reading and writing, and soon both skills were being finessed.
“I remember performing my first trick for my father,” he said, “He's a structural engineer, in my world he’s a genius. He makes buildings and bridges stand up using mathematics. I made a coin disappear using sleight of hand and he said, ‘How did you do that?’
“To be able to do something that your father -- who is a genius -- can’t, that’s pretty powerful. I was like oh my god… my dad’s impressed?! So I went back to the library to study more.”
His chosen charity, the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, completes the circle of his relationship with magic as he attempts to win $100,000 for an organisation he said he wished he had growing up.
"Their motto is 'literacy is freedom', because it is," he said, adding, "Intellect is not just measured with writing and writing."
Despite making a living out of the larger-than-life stunts and death-defying tricks he’s famous for, Cosentino described himself as an introvert. Shy from a young age, his love of magic came in handy as an icebreaker where he had otherwise struggled to meet people.
“[Magic] gave me a coping mechanism to introduce myself to people,” he said. Heading into camp as an intruder only felt natural to him. “To some degree it’s a recurring issue, being shy and introverted and using my magic to break the ice.”
While he’ll have the coping mechanism of magic, Cosentino is heading into the jungle without one of his biggest assets: his team.
His team isn’t like his family, it’s literally his family. Both of his brothers have been working with Cosentino for years. His girlfriend performs with him.
“I’ve done things that are difficult and challenging, maybe death-defying, but I’ve always had a comfort blanket,” he said, “If a trick goes wrong you have a Plan B, if an escape goes wrong you get pulled out. It gets dangerous but I trust my team. Usually, my brother is next to me. Both my brothers, my partner, I don’t have that now!
“Thinking about it is actually pretty daunting, actually.”
Things have gone wrong in the past for Cosentino. In one stunt he had his head in a box where kitchen knives would “come crashing down”. A timing miscalculation meant he got slashed in the chin and was rushed to emergency. He’s hit his head in an underwater tank, he’s had stitches in his forehead.
“I understand the parameters of what goes on! Sometimes ignorance is bliss,” he said, “whereas I don’t have that. I’m going to be like… have you guys double-checked this? Has someone tested it?” he said, laughing.
While he’s worried about trials, Cosentino laughed off concerns with eating trials, only because he knows just how terrible he’s going to be at them.
“It’s not going to be very difficult to make me feel sick,” he said. A vegetarian for most of his life, the entertainer said Dr Chris Brown and Lady Julia Morris don’t have to be too creative to make his stomach turn.
“You could put an oyster in front of me and I’d vomit,” he said, laughing. “I don’t even eat scrambled eggs! They just have to give me a nice bacon and eggs and I’ll be like, ‘Hmm, no thanks, get me out of here!’
“I’ll probably be really happy with rice and beans,” he joked.
Before heading into camp, Cosentino said he gave up coffee for a few weeks. “I don’t drink [alcohol] at all and I don’t smoke but I like coffee. I thought it would be wise to go in there not craving coffee,” he said, pausing before adding, “although, talking about coffee I do feel like one now.”
Thankfully out of all our campmates he could easily sneak some into camp thanks to the old sleight of hand, which he said would definitely be helpful for contraband. “I can’t say too much! But maybe,” he said.
Turns out magicians really don’t like giving away their secrets.
I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! airs Sunday to Thursday at 7.30 on 10 and 10 Play.
Featured image: Instagram / Network 10.