What you think is a lovely dimple on Ning’s face is actually a scar from surgery when she was only 21 years old, when a cancerous growth had to be cut out of her cheek.
“We shouldn’t fear death, but instead fear the absence of living… I promised myself that whatever I decided to do from that moment on, I was going to make sure it radiated joy and satisfied my soul.” – Ning Cai, in ‘Who Is Magic Babe Ning?’
Who is this seemingly fearless and magical being, and what’s her story?
I got to meet Ning at one of her magic workshops; a prize I’d won from purchasing and reading her book ‘Who Is Magic Babe Ning?’.
Ning’s 2nd book ‘Who Is Magic Babe Ning’, and her autograph :D
I’ve yet to read her first book but the second one is a fantastic read and a “tell-all” as she calls it. Ning has a superb sense of humor (really, read her book!) yet suffers no fools, has dedicated over a decade to her career as an illusionist (16-hour rehearsals everyday before “The Impalement Cage” illusion, yo!) and yet she has hung up her corset and magic boots to be… a yoga teacher???
It is almost unfair that someone who looks so hot is also a really cool author and a awesome blogger – Ning used to blog for STOMP, and she now writes for TODAY. You’ll find a link to her TODAY articles at the end of this post.
So I just had to ask her a couple of questions about her experiences of dating both men and women, her marriage (it’s impossible to find any pictures of her hubby online), what she’ll do henceforth after saying goodbye to death-defying stunts, and why she would pray for her bullies!
All pictures in this blogpost are courtesy of Ning Cai, unless otherwise specified :)
1) Congratulations on getting married! How’s married life treating you so far?
Thanks Grace! Yes, it’s been really super. I think I totally lucked out because I married my soulmate, who totally gets me and loves me for all that I am. For years I hadn’t had it easy in the relationship department since I’d put my career first and there wasn’t any space or time for anyone, especially with my crazy performing and traveling schedule. I’d also been accused of being a workaholic commitment-phobe in the past, and there may be some truth in it… until I met the One who completed me. Then it all made sense why past relationships just could’t work out before.
I’m blessed with an amazing, albeit super shy, spouse with a very understanding family. My in-laws are amazing. There’s none of that nightmarish stuff you often read about in women magazines. LOL. So yes, I’m very, very happily married!
2) Career plans now that you’ve relinquished the role of Magic Babe Ning?
My parents were actually very relieved that I finally hung up my show boots! They’ve witnessed most of my death-defying escape feats like “The Impalement Cage”, my first major escapology act in 2008, which was endorsed by the Singapore Tourism Board as part of the inaugural Singapore River Festival. It saw me having just 90 seconds to escape death from a cage of falling spikes while I was blindfolded, chained up, shackled and bound, with only a paperclip to pick the locks with!
The last escape act my folks witnessed was during the closing weekend of the Singapore Night Festival in 2013. “Ultimate Inversion” had me hanging upside-down from 75 feet in the air, way above the iconic domed roof of the National Museum of Singapore, from a length of burning rope, strapped up in 2 straitjackets and with no safety net.
[Photo credit: https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/]
Hanging from just regular inversion boots, the escape act was legitimately dangerous and my parents were totally freaked out (my poor mother almost had a meltdown)… so yep, they are in fact extremely elated that I’m (finally) using my Bachelor’s degree in Communications now that I’m freelancing as a writer for TODAY, working on my new website (NingThing.com launches late June 2015) and writing my third book!
Grace: One of the metal chains snapped during the ‘Ultimate Inversion’ – you can find the heart-stopping footage on YouTube, and also read the details in Ning’s book. And that’s not all. Ning had a couple of accidents related to the ‘360 Sawing’ illusion. One time, the box fell with her in it, and her body weight landed on her left hand, injuring it quite badly though no bones were broken. Another time, she landed on her head. I am beginning to suspect that she was born with nine lives.
3) If you could have one special power or real magical ability (no illusions here), what would it be?
The ability to propagate world peace. When people ask me about my religion, I always tell them that it’s Humanity, and Love is my philosophy. I think I’ve mellowed a lot over the ten years I was in showbiz, which initially hardened me. And now I’m at this point in life where I’m more comfortable being just Ning without the mask of Magic Babe, and I completely believe that Peace inspired by Compassion is what we really need in our world today, not religious extremists who ruthlessly spread fear and hate.
4) I loved reading your book and meeting you ‘cos you have such a lovely, positive vibe going on. Where does that positivity come from?
Awwwww, thanks Grace! Many people assumed that because I chose an artist’s path, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Since you’ve read my book, you know that’s definitely not the case. But I equate my earlier struggles to the classic metamorphosis of a butterfly.
After you’ve been through much like I personally have – dire poverty where you almost couldn’t finish your basic poly education because of the lack of tuition funds, a cancerous growth that leaves a permanent scar on your face at 21, bullying from jealous backstabbing peers, and dealing with your own rage and disappointments – you realise your personal growth flourishes when you overcome these adversities that serve to make you a stronger, better, more resilient human being.
“Your personal growth flourishes when you overcome these adversities that serve to make you a stronger, better, more resilient human being.”
I try to work on cultivating my spiritual growth too. While spending a month in Thailand for my 200-hour yoga teacher training course last year, I rediscovered meditation and realised how good it is for the soul. Often, people in today’s modern world get way too sucked into the illusion of “life”… but they are merely existing, not really living. When you’re in touch with yourself, connected with the Universe/ God, you develop a higher level of awareness and loving-kindness, pointing to the important realisation that we are all connected and we should try to be that spark of positive energy which, like a lit candle, doesn’t diminish when you share and spread your light.
5) In your own words, you have “fancied both men and women” and dated both. What is the difference between dating a man vs dating a woman? Do women really ‘understand’ women more than men do? Or does it all boil down to that person’s personality / character?
Yes, to me, love is love. It transcends race, religion, skin color, age, weight, height, salary, OCD, you name it… I don’t need everyone to agree with my point of view that you can’t choose who you fall in love with (FYI we’re talking about consenting adults here), but since recorded history, there’s been all kinds of romantic relationships and it was only because of religion that it has been judged quite recently.
I’ve dated some truly awesome people – black men, white men, Asian people – all based on their personalities (okay, sometimes their good looks, I can be a bit shallow that way) and you shouldn’t stereotype. I mean, I’ve had boyfriends who are better at picking out clothes than I am, dated jocks who read books (yes, that is SUCH a turn on) and take care of their skin, also wonderful SNAGs* who cook the most delicious Japanese food for me (sexiest thing ever)… then there are the butch women who have an endearing cutesy side. So it’s really all about the person!
[*SNAG: Sensitive New Age Guy]
I believe people should figure out what they want for themselves and not allow society or oppressive religious leaders to dictate their love lives. Some people are born lefties in a right-handed world. The minorities didn’t choose to be different on purpose (do you know how difficult it is to use scissors?!) but sometimes, it is just so and one should accept it.
Life is an amazing journey. You shouldn’t be forced to use some bossy person’s “official” and “approved” road map. Follow your heart. I know for a fact that it’s the world’s best GPS. ;)
6) What’s your take on plastic surgery purely for cosmetic / vanity reasons, and have you gone under the knife before, apart from surgery due to cancer?
Yep. Back in 2011 just before my 9-month-long backpacking journey around the world, I got my sinuses fixed. It’s not a “nose job” because the shape of my nose never changed, but it definitely helped me breathe better because I was suffering from sleep apnea and would jerk awake in the middle of the night suddenly, when my body realised I hadn’t been breathing and my brain was lacking oxygen! My family was there for me when I did that 1- day surgery, and they knew I’ve had a serious sinus problem since I was a kid.
As for plastic surgery, I honestly think it’s the individual’s choice really. I’d personally not want to change the face my parents gave me, because I see them when I look into the mirror. But I do believe that every child born with a cleft lip should go for surgery now since it’s more readily available. It would truly help their self esteem, besides gaining a much better chance of getting the job they want when they’re older! Same goes for burn victims. I know of people who have gone for various implants (calf implants for guys, butt implants for the ladies) and they felt a lot more confident about themselves after. I really think that it’s none of my business, so I don’t judge. I’m just happy that they’re happy with the new “improved” versions of themselves.
7) Have you ever won the lottery? :D
You’re asking this because of my successful Singapore Pools 4D prediction in 2009, aren’t you?! OMG, after JC and I accomplished the never-done-before stunt in Singapore, we had not only locals calling us for lottery numbers, but people from China and Nigeria constantly hounding us to help them win money! No kidding. These crazy punters just could not accept the fact that it was all a psychological illusion.
Aside from that particular 4D ticket that was purchased (we decided on the number together but it was JC who physically went to buy it), I’ve never gambled. Not even when I’m in Vegas! It’s my pet peeve really. I can’t respect a man who has a gambling issue because it’s a sad mental illness when they can’t stop themselves and turn illogically superstitious and needlessly abusive towards their family.
Sometimes it’s so senseless! In 2012 when I was based in Genting Highlands for a month, performing my illusion shows every night, I’d see people being wheeled out of the casino so often, it was not funny. I think that’s why the hotel windows are all sealed shut, so nobody can do anything silly. Sometimes these people are strapped down and screaming because they had squandered away their entire fortune at the tables. The saddest time was when over a late supper with the cast, we all witnessed an old lady being carried out on the stretcher, with an oxygen mask over her frail, lifeless face. I hope she didn’t lose her life savings. Gambling is just one of those things that one shouldn’t get started on.
8) You’ve written about your encounters with bullies in school and at work. How, specifically, do you deal with peer jealousy, people who dislike you for no reason other than your apparent success? Has yoga and meditation changed your perspective towards these bullies and antagonistic people?
When I was in primary school, a particular classmate who disliked me for some reason was trying to “steal” my best friend and she even used a pin to stab multiple holes all over my kite (I’d always been more inclined towards the arts and had spent an afternoon fashioning a large owl kite, which our form teacher complimented in class, and it was prominently placed on our wall-length noticeboard at the back of the classroom along with everyone else’s). I’d noticed her relentlessly stabbing holes into my artwork so I got up from my chair to approach her. The girl was so absorbed in destroying my kite that it was only when I cleared my throat politely, that she jumped up and walked away without an apology. She later tried to frame me when a classmate lost something, but I was proven innocent when the teacher searched everyone’s belongings. But I prayed for her. I wasn’t sure exactly why she had so much aggression and angst, especially when she came from a wealthy family with equestrian lessons every weekend and she seemed to have everything – a pretty face, deep dimples on both cheeks, a perpetual healthy tan, the newest pretty things, expensive stationery, the works.
I decided not to let anger consume me, and simply allow karma to fix things. Sometimes that’s just the best way. Defend yourself when you have to, but don’t allow yourself to get mad because the anger would only destroy you from the inside. Let things be and have faith that the Universe/ God will handle it. And meanwhile, try to cultivate patience. It’s not easy, I’m still working on that every day!
Read Ning’s articles on TODAY here: http://www.todayonline.com/authors/ning-cai
Look out for her new website NingThing.com (to be launched in late-June 2015) :)
I’ve definitely learnt a thing or two from Ning via this interview. Yes, especially that bit about praying for one’s haters – it sounds more difficult than escaping from ‘The Impalement Cage’ but that’s what I, and a lot of other people, have to learn, I suppose.
And if you’re wondering about how I select bloggers to be featured in this series, well, let’s just say you cannot pay to get featured here. It’s my way of supporting the blogger community by featuring those individuals I find highly inspiring. And the way Ning juggles her portfolio of passions is just amazing – from becoming a high achiever in the world of magic to leaving at the peak of her career, leaving Singapore and going backpacking for 9 months, to pursuing her love for writing by authoring books and crafting commentaries.
I guess that’s the way life should be.
It’s not about studying hard in school, getting an iron-ricebowl-job, sticking in said job till retirement, and wondering where all those years have gone.
Yes, Ning has definitely kept her promise to herself – the one made after that cancer scare: to do what radiated joy and satisfied her soul.
Food for thought: Is what you are doing today causing you to radiate joy and does it satisfy your soul? :) If it doesn’t, then what should you be doing instead?