In late June 2021, George Stanton prepared for one of his biggest events to date. He had been invited to perform at a birthday celebration for Kris Lofton, a star of the upcoming STARZ television series “Power Book IV: Force.” That night, as he approached the venue, what caught his eye was the bright white sign reading “9MAG” positioned over a red enclosed walkway. He was about to enter the famed 9MAG Tattoo Shop featured on the reality series “Black Ink Crew: Chicago” owned by the star of the show, Ryan Henry.
Stanton would be using two videographers rather than his usual one, plus two photographers. As he waited for his second videographer to show, Stanton sat in his black t-shirt, black jacket, skinny jeans, and his signature black King of Hearts cap scoping the scene. He bobbed his head to the hip-hop music playing from the flat-screen TVs. Cameras periodically flashed, capturing his moment of silent preparation.
He turned to his team and asked, “What about them?”
They nodded, and his team of cameras slowly approached two unsuspecting men sitting on a couch.
“Hi, how are you guys doing? I’m a magician and Kris hired me to perform at his party. You mind if I show you a few things?” Stanton said.
Unconcerned, the two men reluctantly agreed and watched as Stanton pulled out two cards, a queen, and a four. Before their eyes, the two cards became three and then six, transporting themselves from hand to hand in milliseconds.
The group’s astonishment only grew as the performance got more and more complex: mentalism, mind-bending predictions, guessing a person’s phone passcode by gazing into their eyes, and making calls to strangers’ phones simply by tapping them on the shoulder. The crowd around him grew quickly, expanding from the two men to fifteen people propping themselves up on tables, and benches just to catch a glimpse of the purely unexplainable.
Stanton, the magician, became the focal point of the event. A swarm of people flocked to him as if he were the bright light drawing the irresistible fascination of moths.
He would go on to perform for many of the “Power Book IV” cast at the event, finally catching up with Joseph Sikora, the actor who plays the infamous Tommy in the “Power” series.
The praise rained for Stanton with mentions of television spots, future performances, paid trips to Los Angeles, and even a declaration from Ryan Henry himself.
“The price just went up!” Henry said as he left the shop.
THE MAGICIAN’S BIRTH, DEATH, AND REANIMATION
But on the inside, George Stanton remains the boy from the east side of Detroit practicing the illusion of levitation, fascinated by the opportunity to amaze.
As a child, Stanton would stand in front of the mirror attempting to position himself just right to create the illusion of levitation. Twelve years after that initial spark of interest and just two and a half years after deciding to pursue magic professionally, the 24-year-old Stanton now has broken into circles reserved for high-profile artists and influencers.
No, human levitation does not have a current place in his performances, but the journey of his career so far has been an act of stardom levitation. He has performed for big names including rappers Freddie Gibbs and Chance the Rapper, athletes Coco Gauff and A’ja Wilson, and entertainment executive Alex Avant.
The Black Detroit-born magician is beginning to make a name for himself across the entertainment industry. Though quick, Stanton’s meteoric rise is not chance or trickery. It is dedication, unyielding passion for the art form, and an inner knowing that magic was his destiny.
Around the fifth grade, a random YouTube video, the first he had ever seen about magic, seized his attention. It sparked a passion for the mysterious art form. For him, the principal draw was the ability to be in on the secret.
“I just wanted to be able to do things and know how to do things that nobody else knew how to do,” Stanton recalled.
He quickly became known at his middle school as “the guy who knows magic.” But not everyone received this newfound interest with the same enthusiasm as his peers.
“I told (my mom) that that’s what I want to do with my life and she was like ‘you’re not going to make any money doing that,’” Stanton said.
He was determined to prove her wrong, but a six-month stint as an amateur magician ended abruptly after she refused, as a punishment, to get him the magic kit he wanted. As a result of his anger, Stanton would give up on his passion entirely, turning his focus toward a new interest.
During his middle school recess periods, Stanton picked up soccer, eventually competing collegiately at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Here, things would begin to seemingly fall apart for the young athlete. A chronic injury dating back to his high school worsened, making collegiate competition much more difficult. Stanton left the team after one season, entering a limbo. He had a void where his passion was.
Where there is a void, there is unlimited potential. From this collapse in his life plans, he was able to find his way back to that spark of inspiration his inner child had never truly let go of. Following an impulsive decision to pick up a deck of cards he had brought from home, his passion for magic resurfaced. And soon enough, by mid-2018, Stanton had teamed up with his then videographer, created his social media pages, and begun to produce content.
About a year and a half after putting athletics behind him, he had officially branded himself as “GSMagic,” short for “George Stanton Magic,” and would begin the quest of making magic a full-time job.
“I don’t know any Black magicians. I know David Blaine and Criss Angel … but I don’t really know any Black magicians,” said Noah Stenhouse, Atlanta-based creative director and Stanton’s high school friend. “I love oxymorons and him doing that is such an oxymoron.”
This is not a fact that goes unnoticed. Stanton hopes that his work can make magic more accessible to the Black community, despite their tendency to run away from him when he performs.
The magician’s favorite way to test his skills: going straight to the people on the street and allowing himself to get into the flow of the unpredictable moment.
“You’re out in the world, you don’t know who you’re going to run into, you don’t know the type of people. Everything is very genuine, very random” Stanton said.
This was not always easy for the soft-spoken magician who is not used to walking up to strangers — let alone asking them if they would like to be recorded on video. His first time on the street was chaotic. After fumbling cards and damaging his gear, he saw most of the onlookers lose interest. It wouldn’t be for another year that he would settle into his identity as a street performer.
Whether performing on the street, for celebrities or corporate giants, or at birthday party shows, Stanton’s demeanor never changes. He never shows emotion, in hopes of allowing the magic to speak for itself.
“Being anything less than chill is difficult for me already,” he admitted.
Though he has noticed others in his profession elect to attach an element of personal performance to their act, Stanton’s eerie stoicism only adds to the mystery of his being. It would be easy to think this was an act, but this muted demeanor couldn’t be any more authentic.
“George is a very poised individual … and it’s crazy because it very much represents him in his personal life and when he does magic; he’s very level-headed,” Stenhouse commented.
These aren’t simply tricks that are being performed, Stanton suggests. There is an experience being created. The live exhibition is as much a personal one as it is mystical.
“I always thought that if warlocks and wizards were walking around the Earth and showing people what they do there would never be any theatrics. To them. it would be like ‘this is what I do,’” Stanton replied.
He always begins by asking each person their name, no matter whether he is in front of two or ten. He then asks everyone to come as close to him as possible to make sure they don’t miss anything. The close circle creates an encapsulated energy, eliminating all else leaving only what the magician wants you to see.
THE MAGICIAN’S TRIALS
The pandemic put a fast stop to close circles, but Stanton dealt with that, too. In May 2020, he flipped the world’s misfortune into a personal challenge: how could he make people feel the magic through a screen?
“The idea of the virtual show … is for it to be completely interactive, so I wanted less of people watching me do things through a screen and more of people doing things on their end themselves,” Staton said.
A host of texts and direct messages and copious amounts of trial and error later, Stanton constructed a totally virtual performance via Zoom, expanding his reach from the Chicago area to a worldwide audience including people in Bolivia, Germany, Portugal and Brazil. Originally meant to be a temporary endeavor, the virtual shows continued through the end of the year, eventually transitioning to Instagram Live.
Meanwhile, Stanton experienced the worst loss of his career in June 2020. As a result of a careless mistake, he lost the majority of all the footage collected throughout his career. The hard drive that contained years of footage, the source of his happiness, was gone in a flash.
“I’ve never been one to ever be depressed or super sad about anything. I never really thought that I was capable of even feeling that way,” the magician admitted.
Then, in September, his photographer mistakenly wiped his replacement hard drive.
“Late October was when I was like terrible mentally. My mental health … I didn’t think I could be that depressed,” he said.
It took months for Stanton to reframe this personal tragedy from a devastating calamity to a learning opportunity, one that he would never have to learn again.
“I think it’s better that that happened earlier in my career, so to speak, than later when now I’ve got thousands of hours of invaluable footage that would be a lot worse if I were to lose.”
THE MAGICIAN’S SECRET
When asked how he could do what he does, Stanton always has a default answer: thousands of hours of practice. The biggest secret to the marvels of his illusions, mental acrobatics, and smooth sleight of hand is authentic dedication. A dedication fueled by an innate feeling of a calling sparked by a few childhood moments staring at that video on a computer screen in his father’s home.
“I think your life is kind of planned out before you’re born. And you have that direction that you’re supposed to go with your life and that thing you are supposed to do, your destiny, but you just have to make the choices to get there,” the magician revealed.
It is not uncommon for people’s moods to completely change as the show progresses. One couple went from shamelessly arguing in public about being late to a wedding to laughing and joyfully grabbing onto each other after a performance from Stanton.
“We will beat you,” a woman confidently announced when learning he was a magician. Three minutes later, she’s screaming in disbelief when her card jumped from her hand to the hand of a friend, and finding her friend’s card in her hand.
“The reactions he gets tend to be anywhere between amazed, confused, scared, happy, running away, or screaming,” Juan Garcia, a graphic designer and photographer who frequently works with Stanton, said.
Looking over the pictures he took with the groups he would perform for, he noticed the wide range of the types of people he would see. It inspired him to launch an Instagram photo series: “Magic Unites Everybody,” a visual representation of the message he believes to be at the core of his purpose. It has now become his mantra, appearing on his merchandise and business cards. The magician even said that the acronym “MUE” may even become his very first tattoo.
It’s more than just three words, it’s a powerful truth for the artist.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your sexual orientation is, financial status, race, religion … it doesn’t matter. None of that matters when it comes to magic. It’s literally for everyone,” he said.
With the pure joy and passion, he feels when performing, there is no doubt in his mind that he is living the life he was destined for.
“If you’re passionate about something, pursue it. Don’t give up. And take that from someone who wants to do magic for a living.”