I’m A Celebrity 2020: How Houdini Inspired Cosentino To Overcome His Learning Difficulties

Cosentino has been very open with his campmates about his learning difficulties when he was younger.

Telling the camp he was unable to read or write until he was 12-years-old, Cos is now an ambassador for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation -- his chosen charity while he’s in the jungle.

The illusionist and stage magician spoke to Rhonda Burchmore about how magic was an integral part of overcoming his learning difficulties.

After finding out that his mum was a school principal, Rhonda said, “I don’t understand why you said you didn’t learn to read until you were 12 if she was such an educated teacher.”

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“I had learned to disguise my disabilities,” Cos explained. “Mum was trying everything. I went to specialists… she was on top of it. They wrenched me out of my regular class and put me in a specialist class with all these other students. And then you learn to live with that label ‘learning difficulties’.”

Cos said his mum would often take him to the library, “to force me to love literature and not be repelled by it”.

“She was just hoping that something would capture my imagination,” he said explaining that he came across an old book that told the stories of famous magicians like Harry Houdini.

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I’m A Celebrity 2020: How Houdini Inspired Cosentino To Overcome His Learning Difficulties
Cos has often referred to Houdini as one of his personal superheros. Photo: via Reddit.

Looking at the old illustrations that promised “nothing on Earth can hold Houdini prisoner”, Cos’ mum would read to him about the magicians, leaving him to practice the tricks in the backs of the books.

Speaking to 10 daily before he went into the jungle Cos explained that the practical application of magic forced him to learn to read, and in giving him that unique skill inspired him further to study more.

“By reading the words, analysing them, looking at the pictures and physically applying them, I learned to read. It wasn’t just listening to a story, I was participating.”

Back by the waterfall Cos told Rhonda, “What made me read was the fact that to learn the trick you really had to analyse each word, because it would tell you what to do: put your pinky here, put your right index finger here.

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“That physical application allowed me to read. It really built my confidence,” he added. “I just kept doing it to the point where when I finished school, I had an ENTER score of 90 out of 99.”

Cos went on to appear on ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ in 2011 where he was the runner up to Jack Vidgen. He then competed -- and won -- the 2013 season of Channel Seven’s ‘Dancing With The Stars’.

He’s toured the world several times with his shows that blend escape art, stage illusion, close-up magic and mentalism and has had TV specials and a series where he performed street magic around Asia, ‘The Elements: Cosentino’.

“Magic has given me so much, it made me do things I never would have been able to.” Cos said, “I owe absolutely everything to it and that’s why I give so much when I perform. It’s my world.”

I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! airs Sunday to Thursday at 7.30 on 10 and 10 Play.