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NBC Insider America's Got Talent

Why AGT's Shin Lim Knew Immediately He Was Good at Card Magic

"I was picking it up really quickly," the Season 13 winner says.

By Christopher Rosa

Shin Lim is AGT magician royalty. The Season 13 winner and winner of America's Got Talent: The Champions Season 1 wowed audiences and the Judges with his impressive card magic. Skilled at sleight of hand, Lim's tricks will leave even the most cynical person awestruck. Seriously, how does he do it? 

How to Watch

Watch the Season 19 premiere of America’s Got Talent Tuesday, May 28 at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock

Believe it or not, it wasn't that long ago Lim was asking himself that same question. After his older brother first showed him a magic trick, he was hooked; Lim spent the following summer watching video tutorials and teaching himself every trick he could. The rest, as you know, is history. Lim is currently headlining his own show in Las Vegas, which he calls a magician's dream job. Ahead of Season 17 of AGT, we caught up with Lim about his experience on the show. Read on. 

NBC Insider: How did you first discover card magic?

Shin Lim, AGT Season 13 Winner: I was actually 16. My older brother, he’s not a magician, but he learned one simple card trick and showed me the trick. He was like, “It’s really cool, I learned this from my friend.” And I was so amazed. I kind of thought at that time you had to be a part of some special club to learn magic. I didn’t think you could just learn it by yourself. [My brother] didn’t know any other tricks, so I decided to take it upon myself to go online and learn all the free tricks. There are a lot of free tutorials out there…That’s kind of how I got started.  

Was there a moment when you realized, “I actually think I’m pretty good at this?”

It was quite immediate. Because I learned my first trick during the summer time, I had three months of doing absolutely nothing. So I just went on YouTube and learned every single trick. I was picking it up really quickly. I think it was because of my piano background. That really helped me with the sleight of hand.

What made you decide to audition for America’s Got Talent

I had always known about AGT. I practically grew up watching it. When I started doing magic and taking it seriously, in the back of my head I was like, “I think I want to do AGT.”

Agt Winners Shin Lim

What was your audition process like?

I remember it was in Pasadena. It was so beautiful. I actually ended up moving there! I just remember how nice everything was. The weather, the people were super chill, too. I really enjoyed the experience that I had there. Stepping on the stage, it was pretty surreal. I felt pretty nervous. But at the same time, the Judges weren’t as intimidating as I thought they were 'gonna be. I set my expectations high, especially for Simon [Cowell]. I was like, “OK, just expect him to be really mean.” But he really liked [my performance]. He gave me, like, a standing ovation. I felt very welcomed. 

What was the most nerve-wracking part of the experience?

Just the fact that it was AGT. This is something I have watched since I was a young kid. It’s really surreal that I was on that same stage, seeing those Xs. Other than that, the audience is really, really nice. They’re not booing or anything. They’re cheering, so it’s very encouraging. It was a really good experience. 

What advice would you give to people who are auditioning for America’s Got Talent?

Always be as prepared as you can be. The worst thing you can do, especially if you’re broadcasting your talent to the world, is to not be prepared. When you’re not prepared, then other factors come in that mess you up. There's music, there’s timing. "Get the right shot for this camera angle," or, "Look at this camera, at that angle," so they can show you well. If you’re not prepared with your own act, you can’t focus on the little things, which really do matter for TV. 

What’s next for you?  

I’m currently performing at the Mirage in Las Vegas. The show is called Limitless. It’s the same hotel Siegfried and Roy performed at, so I feel very blessed to be there. As a magician, to be a headliner in Vegas is kind of the dream job.

America's Got Talent Season 17 premieres Tuesday, May 31 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.