When Benjamin Déziel travelled to Niagara Falls in October 2022 for his audition on Canada’s Got Talent, he was thinking about his early days of magic in northern Quebec.
He remembered falling in love with magic when, at the age of nine, he watched someone do a magic trick at his parents’ wedding.
From that moment onward, Déziel would wake up as early as 4 a.m. and turn to YouTube to learn some of his first tricks, setting his screen on his desk in his home in Kangiqsujuaq, Que., a community of 800 located over 1,700 kilometres north of Montreal.
“I had a lot of time. There was tundra everywhere. It’s always a blizzard outside,” said Déziel, whose family moved to the town when he was six months old.
“I was stuck in my room in front of the mirror and just practising my tricks, reading my books, trying to watch YouTube videos. I’d have to pause it for like 10 minutes, go do something, come back later … The internet wasn’t the best.”
He says he loved watching magicians perform on America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent and would often beg his parents to let him stay up past his bedtime.
“[I said] ‘mom, mom, please can I watch this video? I’ve been waiting for like three hours for this to load. Please, please,”’ recalled Déziel, who moved to Saskatoon eight months ago. “So it’s always been a dream of mine.”
And 10 years later, at the age of 19, he walked onto the stage and performed some of the same tricks he learned all those years ago.
His audition received over 600,000 views after Déziel wowed judge Lilly Singh by making a deck of cards disappear and then turn into a cube of glass in her hand.
He remembers feeling jittery before he stepped on stage.
“I closed my eyes and I said ‘once you get on the stage you’re gonna take a second, you’re gonna look at everybody and you’re gonna have a couple seconds of gratitude and you’re gonna say ‘wow, look where I come from and look where I’m at right now’ and just have a thought for the people back home,” said Déziel.
After walking off stage, Déziel says it was all so overwhelming that he couldn’t remember anything from the audition.
“There were too many things going on in my head … And I was like, ‘oh my God, what’s going on?'” said Déziel.
“I was like, ‘holy crap, I just did this’ … And I saw my manager was backstage with my mentor, and he looked at me and he was like, ‘let’s go, you got four yeses, you got four yeses,’ and we just freaked out.”
WATCH | Benjamin Déziel wows the judges:
‘He’s our local superstar’ says family friend in Nunavik
Once the audition aired last month, Déziel, commonly dubbed ‘Magic Ben,’ says he’s received a positive reaction from people in Kangiqsujuaq.
“The whole community definitely has always loved my magic, and has always pushed for it,” said Déziel. “The Inuit … they’re people that like to laugh.”
Situated in a valley along the Hudson Strait between the mountains and Pingualuit National Park, Kangiqsujuaq was home to Déziel, who is not Indigenous, for about 15 years before he moved to the Yukon in 2019 and then settled in Saskatoon.
Breakaway11:4319-year-old Benjamin Déziel takes passion for magic to the big stage of Canada’s Got Talent
He says he turned to magic as an outlet as a way of dealing with bullying in school.
Markusi Qisiiq, a long-time family friend and Inuk from Kangiqsujuaq, watched Déziel grow up and says he continues to watch Déziel’s videos online.
“I must say I am proud,” said Qisiiq.
“I remember him showing me new magic tricks, cards games, whatnot and he was pretty impressive already at a very young age. I told him I was going to support him [and that] he should do more. I wanted to encourage him and he was already pretty good, and I mean, look at him now!”
Qisiiq first met Déziel when Déziel was a toddler, the same age as his own son. He says he taught Déziel some of his first words in Inuktitut, a language he is now fluent in.
“Most of us Kangiqsujuaqmiut and also Nunavimmiut are proud of him. He’s our local superstar,” said Qisiiq.
Years back, Qisiiq was influential in getting the local magician back to Nunavik for the annual Aqpik Jam Music Festival, even inviting him to local events and birthday parties so he could practise his skills early on.
“Markusi, he got me into some very good festivals in Nunavik where I started getting some visibility,” said Déziel.
“It made me believe in myself. I figured if I could do magic to them, I could do magic to anybody.”
‘I’m following my dreams no matter what’
Returning to Nunavik over the years has made his career “come full circle,” said Déziel. He hopes he can inspire more young people moving forward.
“I represent hope and inspiration to all the communities up north, all the communities of Nunavik, all the Inuit communities. That it doesn’t matter where you come from in life, anything is possible,” said Déziel.
“And look, today I’m on Canada’s Got Talent, I’m on Canada’s biggest stage and I’m following my dreams no matter what.”