Ning Cai (author)
Ning Cai at her MisDirection book launch at Books Kinokuniya on 19 April 2018
October 16, 1982
|Other names||Magic Babe Ning |
Mind Magic Mistress
|Alma mater||Ngee Ann Polytechnic |
University of Edinburgh
|Occupation||Writer, Entrepreneur, Magician, Model|
|Known for||South East Asia's first professional female magician|
Ning Cai (Chinese: 蔡嬣; pinyin: Cài Níng; born 16 October 1982), is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. She is best recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician. Cai has been credited with popularising magic in Singapore. She has been lauded for her good looks in various media outlets as well as publications, both locally and overseas.
In October 2014, Cai announced her retirement from performing as her famous alter ego Magic Babe Ning with a keen focus on her writing career. Soon after, she published her 2016 Singapore Literature Prize nominated autobiography Who Is Magic Babe Ning? She made a brief return to magic as the Mind Magic Mistress in 2017. To date, she has published 3 nonfiction books and 2 fiction books, with her latest bestselling crime fiction novel Misdirection being the first of a young adult trilogy.
Ning Cai was born in Singapore on 16 October 1983 and is the eldest of three sisters. She studied in Methodist Girls School where she completed both her PSLE and GCE O Level examinations. She was also credited with a certificate of distinction for competing in the Australian Mathematics Competition of 1997.
Upon graduation from Methodist Girls School, she progressed her tertiary education at Ngee Ann Polytechnic where she pursued a diploma in Film Sound and Video with the intention to graduate as a television producer and writer. Her alma mater later officially inducted Cai into their inaugural Hall of Fame in 2011 along with fellow graduates of the School of Film Media Studies, DJs Jamie Yeo and Justin Ang, one half of The Muttons.
Her constant hard work and positive track record in the public eye, along with Cai's creative talent and prowess in writing won her accolades and also the prestigious 2018 Arts Scholarship from the National Arts Council where she will be pursuing her postgraduate studies in Creative Writing (Fiction) at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Career In Magic
2006 to 2009
Cai soon found herself gaining recognition for her magic tricks that she honed over the years ever since she first started watching David Copperfield on TV at the age of 5. In 2006, she joined a local magic competition and was placed 2nd runner up. This unexpected win led her to eventually decide to be a full-time professional performer after graduating from University.
When Cai first burst onto the entertainment scene, she was widely acknowledged as "Singapore’s only professional female magician"  by publications including The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, The New Paper, My Paper, Mediacorp Channel 8 News and Lianhe Wanbao. Cai dislikes being typecast as the typical female in magic who plays submissive roles to males and only performs magic with silks, flowers, umbrellas or rabbits and has incorporated fire-eating, choreography with samurai swords, twirling fire balls, spikes and weapons in her shows. Her influences in magic when she was growing up include David Copperfield and Princess Tenko. Over the years, she has grown from performing simple magic tricks to more elaborate and death defying ones.
Cai collaborated with her former manager, J C Sum, in various illusion shows across Asia. Channel News Asia has highlighted that they represent "the new faces of an age-old art form", and called them "Singapore’s celebrity magic duo". They have been hailed as "Asia’s most famous illusionists" by Straits Times and have been lauded as "the hottest duo in town" by AsiaOne. Together, they have helped to put Singapore on the world map with their daring performances and captivating illusions. By 2008, Cai and Sum were the highest paid magicians in Singapore.
In March 2008, Cai was a featured celebrity as Singapore's only professional female magician on Record Breakers (Kid Central Mediacorp Studios). Together with Sum, they appeared on several local media outlets, showcasing their various illusions. They soon garnered international attention as they were engaged to perform on the long-running TV show Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde in Paris, France. The episode, broadcast internationally, aired on 31 December 2011 and was the highest rated TV show of its time slot on French TV. They were also featured in an episode of Itte-Q!, a Japanese variety show that featured variety stars taking "lessons" from them. In the same year, they also appeared on the Italian TV show La Grande Magia.
Cai and Sum starred in Ultimate Magic, Singapore's first permanent illusion show at The Arena in the entertainment district of Clarke Quay. As part of the launch of the show, Cai attempted South East Asia's first ever mega escape from The Impalement Cage on 5 July 2008.
Over the years, they have performed illusions for a myriad of renowned events. As part of the F1 Singapore Grand Prix Season, on 24 September 2008, Cai and Sum successfully staged South East Asian's Biggest Magic Event at the Singapore River by teleporting 3 people across the iconic Singapore River in 2.5 seconds. 31 On 27 March 2010, Cai and Sum performed some of their illusions alongside other popular celebrities as part the Earth Hour concert  
Cai's popularity and fame has provided her with opportunities such as headlining a gala show as a solo act at the South England Magic Convention on 31 January 2009. This mark the first time in history that a Singaporean magician headlined an international magic convention.
Cai and Sum have established noteworthy records through their impressive displays of illusion and magic. On 27 June 2009, they performed The Impossible Record which was a performance that consisted of 15 grand illusions in 5 minutes. This served as a closing finale for the 2009 Singapore River Festival and was the first ever magic record to be adjudicated by the Singapore Book of Records. They also performed an illusory act titled The Mind Heist, an illusion that captured the thoughts of 100 random people within an hour. This act marked the first ever time that it was streamed live on internet.
In front of a live audience of more than 4,000 people, Cai picked her way through handcuffs, locks, shackles as chains to free herself from a steel cage with a bed of 13 stainless steel spikes, timed to crash down on her in 90 seconds. To add to the difficulty and danger of the mega escape, Cai was also completely blindfolded. The Impalement Cage act served as the opening act for Ultimate Magic. The show ran for over a year and ended in August 2009.
2010 to 2014
On 22 January 2010, they performed another magic act dubbed The Impossible 4D Prediction in which they successfully predicted in advance the winning lottery number that they will be bidding a week before. Due to the media's coverage of the lottery prediction, the term "Magic Babe Ning" was the most searched on Yahoo! Singapore.
In August 2010, Cai and Sum represented Singapore on an Indonesian TV show titled "Duel Mahakarya Magician". They performed alongside with some of Indonesia's top magicians and other international magicians including Peter Marvel, Marc Spelmann and Omar Pasha. The live TV show reached viewership of over 20 million.
On 12 December 2010, Cai and Sum vanished five audience members while they were elevated 24 ft high up in the air in front of an audience of over 1,000 at the Asian Civilisations Museum. The illusion stunt was called The Aerial Exit and it was the grand finale of the National Heritage Board’s 2010 Explore Singapore campaign.
In 2011, Cai and Sum were chosen to host Singapore's first 3D television show. Produced jointly by Sitting In Pictures, Ochre Pictures, 360 Production and Upside Down Concepts, the show was commissioned by Singapore's Media Development Authority and it was meant to showcase Singapore's Arts and Culture as well as Cai and Sum's brand of magic.
In June 2012, Cai became the first woman to successfully attempt an inverted double straitjacket escape from a burning rope 35 ft above ground. Titled The Extreme Inversion, the stunt was part of the media launch for Superstars of Magic 2, a production show that featured international performers and included Cai and Sum in their element. This act was taken to another level during the Singapore Night Festival on 30 August 2013 where Cai and Sum escaped in tandem from two straitjackets each while they were suspended upside down from a burning rope, 50 ft in the air. The feat was recognised by Singapore Book of Records as Singapore's first tandem upside down double straitjacket escape from a burning rope.
In August 2012, Cai was featured in Cosmopolitan Singapore as one of the magazine's "Fun, Fearless Females".
Cai was handpicked by Rémy Cointreau to be a celebrity host for their "Cointreau-versial" party on October 2012 at the Gem Bar as she was deemed a "controversial and sophisticated woman with a passion for life".
In December 2012, they were invited back to Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde where they were booked to perform once again in the New Year's special.
In August 2013, Cai and Sum were part of the closing highlights for Singapore Night Festival 2013, organised by the National Heritage Board. It marked the first instance where local acts were the closing highlights. Cai attempted a solo escapology act The Water Vault, an act inspired by Harry Houdini's Milk Can Escape. This act saw her escaping from a stainless steel water vault that was chained and locked up.
In October 2014, after 10 years performing as one of Singapore's top female magicians, Cai announced that she would be retiring from her work as stage character Magic Babe Ning. Her retirement came as a major surprise to her fans, who have seen the homegrown artiste rise to an international status, performing for royalty in Oman and gracing television screens in Europe, Asia, and the UK. She cited reasons such as her upcoming wedding that December as well as her desire to focus on writing. She plans to teach yoga, and released her memoir Who Is Magic Babe Ning? in November. She married her Singaporean partner, who works in the arts, in December 2014.
Cai later revealed that it's time for her to do something for her health as her exhaustive work schedule had taken its toll on her. Prior to her announcement, she and her best friend Pamela Ho co-authored the bestselling nonfiction travelogue ‘Adventures of 2 Girls’, a compilation of experiences which ‘traces the journey of two best friends who take a 9-month break from their successful careers to tick a big, fat item off their bucket list: to travel the world and write a book’. It was published by Marshall Cavendish in September 2012 and it debuted on The Straits Times Bestsellers List at #8 on October 2012.
Following ‘Adventures of 2 girls’ Cai wrote a bestselling autobiography titled ‘Who is Magic Babe Ning’ detailing her early years and ‘reveals how the shy teenage girl transformed herself into magic’s wild child and became a 2-time FHM cover girl, embraced by international media and respected by professional peers worldwide’. The book was published by Marshall Cavendish in December 2014 with a foreword written by internationally acclaimed author, Neil Gaiman.
Cai called the book a eulogy of sorts to her famous stage character, Magic Babe Ning. It was shortlisted in 2016 for the Singapore Literature Prize in the English nonfiction category. Cai has also collaborated with her longtime friend and mentor, John Teo, president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (Singapore) in creating a dual-cover activity book ‘Game of Thoughts: Understanding Creativity Through Mind Games’, a book that invokes creativity within readers through a series of ‘brain teasers, puzzles conundrums, thought experiments and writing exercises’.The foreword of which, was penned by the renowned illusionist Lu Chen 劉謙.
In November 2016, Cai’s middle grade novel ‘Magicienne’ was published. It was co-written by Don Bosco, an award-winning Singaporean author for children's’ books. The fiction book features a young protagonist and has been depicted as a ‘younger version of Magic Babe’. In April 2018, Cai released the first book of her young adult trilogy. Titled ‘Misdirection: Book 1 of the Savant Trilogy’, the book follows dynamic parkour champion, Maxine Schooling, who wakes up from a three-year coma and discovers that her family has been murdered by a killer who is still out there. Cai's original manuscript was longlisted for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016 and subsequently reworked and published by Epigram Books, spending six consecutive weeks on The Straits Times bestsellers list.
Cai is no stranger as a panelist at the annual Singapore Writers Festival, and has also lent her full support for various literary festivals and events by the National Library Board and the National Arts Council to promote Singlit and reading to the public.
Cai has cited various literary figures as her influences. They include but not limited to Neil Gaiman, Terry Moore and Elizabeth Watasin. The highly fictitious nature of the works by these authors provided her with a sense of escapism from the realities that dogged her formative years. This eventually translated to many of her ideas as a writer.
Brief return to magic and media
Before officially debuting her Mind Magic Mistress mind reading comedy show in March 2017 as the international headline act for the South Tyneside International Magic Festival, Cai had been a headlining guest performer for major Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean cruise ships, showcasing her illusions and escapology acts for thousands of guests at their main theatres.
In 2017, Cai decided to return to the limelight and was invited to be a guest on Mediacorp Channel 5's popular "OK Chope!" programme, She also hosted an episode of local food show, Meat and Greed (Season 2), which takes celebrities on various culinary journeys around Singapore. Cai has also appeared as one half of Singapore's famous entertainment couple, Ye Qing, in a Channel NewsAsia original production titled Love in a Time of Change, a docu-drama that explores history through the lens of personal romances.
The same year, award-winning Singapore director Kelvin Tong reached out to Cai, for her involvement as the official magic consultant for their wildly popular Mediacorp Channel 8 drama series Eat Already? 3 (吃饱没? 3). Initially brought on as a consultant with regards to magic for the series, she ended up landing a role as Miss Ooi, an assistant chef to Zheng Ge Ping's evil twin character.
Stemming from a personal experience with cancer, Cai has been involved with many beneficiaries that promote awareness for cancer and is the ambassador for the Power Over Cervical Cancer (POCC) campaign in Singapore. She uses her social influence to reach out to women and inspire them as a committee member of the Women's Register initiative promoted by the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations. A big believer of the cause, Cai has been involved as a panelist promoting gender equality for International Women's Day, as well as, talks at local educational institutions like SIM, SJI, and her alma mater MGS.
Cai also serves as the creative director of Mighty Magic Lab, a kids edutainment company which focuses on empowering the creativity and confidence of children through magic. The educational shows highlight important messages like fire safety, self-confidence and ill effects of smoking. In 2015, Cai organised a local book hunt called #SG50books50days, an initiative to generate an interest in reading, particularly local books. Over a course of 50 days, she left 50 books from various authors at 50 different locations to which she left clues via social media. Books published by local authors such as Neil Humphreys were attained by those who managed to solve the clues.
Cai was a featured personality for a Singapore Coke Zero advertorial which appeared in an issue of 8 Days that was released on 3 June 2010 as well as appearing as the ambassador for LG Mobile Asia in 2010. In 2018, Cai became the brand ambassador for SodaStream Singapore, as well as, an ambassador for the Singapore Kindness Movement’s ‘Be Greater’ nationwide campaign.
Just before leaving for her MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Cai ran a successful creative writing therapy workshop "Your Heart is the Best GPS", which was part of the Keepers Collective's "Playground of Infinite Happiness" festival at the National Design Centre Singapore in August 2018.
Achievements and Awards
- Cai has achieved several records and awarded numerous awards, including:
- Epigram Books Fiction Prize Longlist (2016) 
- Singapore Literature Prize shortlist, English Nonfiction for Who is Magic Babe Ning (2016) 
- "Outstanding Achievement & Contribution to Magic” Award (2013), International Brotherhood of Magicians, Singapore Ring 115 
- "First Tandem Suspended Upside Down Strait Jacket Escape" (2013), Singapore Book of Records 
- "Patrons of Magic" Award (2012), International Brotherhood of Magicians, Singapore Ring 115
- "Largest Mind Reading Feat: 100 Minds in 60 Minutes" (2012) Singapore Book of Records 
- "Special Recognition Award for Contributions to the Arts & Media Community" (2011) from the School of Film & Media Studies Ngee Ann Polytechnic
- "Merlin Award “Most Original Female Illusionist of the Year" (2009), International Magicians Society 
- "Most Number of Grand Illusions Performed in 5 Minutes" (2009), Singapore Book of Records 
- "Special Achievement Award" (2009), International Brotherhood of Magicians Singapore Ring 115 
- "Straits Times Bestseller List under Children Category for Misdirection: Book 1 of the Savant Trilogy (2018) 
- "National Arts Council Arts Scholarship" (2018) 
- Adventures of 2 Girls (Marshall Cavendish, 2012) – With Pamela Ho
- Who Is Magic Babe Ning? (Marshall Cavendish, 2015) – Foreword by Neil Gaiman
- Game of Thoughts: Understanding Creativity Through Mind Games (Marshall Cavendish, 2016) – with John Teo
- Magicienne: A Novel (Marshall Cavendish, 2016) – With Don Bosco
- Misdirection: Book One of The Savant Trilogy (Epigram Books, 2018)
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- Cai, Ning (2014). Who is Magic Babe Ning. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 9789814561266.
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- "Up in the air at S'port Night Fest". TODAY. 2 September 2013.
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- ""Singapore magicians take their stunts to the next level - literally"". TODAY. 30 August 2013.
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- ""J C Sum and Magic Babe Ning stun with stunts",". The New Paper. 2 September 2013.
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- "Adventures of 2 Girls". Marshall Cavendish.
- "Who Is Magic Babe Ning". Marshall Cavendish.
- Council, Singapore Book. "Singapore Literature Prize | Awards | Singapore Book Council". Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- "Game of Thoughts". Marshall Cavendish.
- Books, Super Cool (28 September 2016). "NING CAI'S MAGICIENNE: WHAT IT TAKES TO TRULY WRITE A YA NOVEL FROM THE HEART". Medium. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
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- "Meat and Greed S2 - Toggle". Toggle. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- "Love Is A Stage: Bai Yan & Ye Qing". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- "OK Chope! Show Info". Toggle. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- "《吃饱没? 3》"Eat Already?" Season 3 - YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- Bajaj, Preeya. "Women's Register - Ning Cai". www.womensregister.org. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
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- "Writer Ning Cai aims to give away 50 books around S'pore by year's end". TODAYonline. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
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- hermes (12 May 2016). "Graphic novel gets nod for Lit Prize". The Straits Times. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- "Singapore Illusionists Receive Special Recognition Award for Contributions to Arts & Media". WebWire. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- "Largest Mind Reading Feat". Singapore Book Of Records. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 25 February 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
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