People told Mahdi the Magician his body would make his dreams impossible — but he refused to quit

"I decided even if it's difficult, I'm going to pursue it to the end."

'I decided even if it's difficult, I'm going to pursue it to the end'

(CBC Arts)

Mahdi Gilbert didn't have dreams growing up because the people around him would convince him out of them.

"One of my teachers told me I shouldn't use my body because my body 'isn't any good,'" the Canadian magician, who was born without hands or feet, tells filmmaker Jason D'Souza. "[They said] that I should use my mind because my mind is still good."

But then, at 17, he found something to be passionate about: slight of hand. Despite discovering that most of the literature about his newfound passion were written by two-handed magicians for other two-handed magicians, Gilbert would make it work for him and practice through the night.

"It was just working and failing every night," the Toronto native says.

Watch the video:

Mahdi the Magician does not quit

4 years ago
Duration 2:57
After almost giving up on his dream, Mahdi Gilbert now performs for huge crowds around the world. Filmmaker: Jason D'Souza

He remembers almost giving up after a particularly bad night. "I had the worst feeling in the world," he remembers. "A feeling of just total hopelessness."

But, he thought, if he gave up on this thing — something that he really wanted and really loved — he would just continue to give up on anything challenging in his life.

"I decided even if it's difficult, I'm going to pursue it to the end."

That was 12 years ago. Now he shares stages with the likes of David Blaine, Penn and Teller and other luminaries in the magic world.

"I went from thinking that nobody would want to see what I was doing to travelling around the world and hundreds of millions of people seeing my magic."

(CBC Arts)
(Jason D'Souza/CBC Arts)
(CBC Arts)

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT). Watch more videos here.