Growing up, Katrina Kroetch didn’t know girls could be magicians. She watched David Copperfield and Chris Angel but never saw a woman in a magic show except as an assistant.
When she was 18, she was a professional princess – performing at kids’ birthday parties, twisting balloon animals and painting faces. At this time she thought magic was scary.
“As a little girl, I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer because she did what Spiderman and Batman do: she fought evil, but she did it in a little mini skirt with lipstick on,” Kroetch says. “Eight-year-old me — I loved seeing strong women.”
Now Kroetch is 28 and performs as The Magical Katrina – doing shows in person and virtually; she performs for clients across Southern California including the Boys & Girls Club, NASA, and Google.
“I do think representation matters,” she says.
Today, fewer than 10% of professional magicians are women, Vicki Greenleaf, a spokesperson for LA’s Magic Castle says. And few come from communities of color.
Now, women working alongside the Magic Castle – a fixture in the magic scene – are trying to change this.
A château style mansion tucked in the Hollywood Hills, it is an exclusive invite-only club for magicians and magician enthusiasts that have included household names like David Blaine and Penn and Teller. For years, most of the performers were white men. The interior of the Castle takes a lot of inspiration from its historic past. It is dimly lit and the walls are covered with portraits of famous magicians like Milt Larson and Harry Houdini.
The Castle runs a junior program – for those under 21 – that aims to teach and mentor the next generation of young magicians. More than 3,000 magicians have gone through the program since it began in 1974 and feature notable alumni such as Neil Patrick Harris and Ed Alonzo.
Almost half of the 67 magicians in this year’s class are girls or from underrepresented groups in magic, such as people of color.
Day Mori, a member of this year’s class, is hopeful it will help the magic community embrace new members.
Mori was part of the Castle’s Pride Month celebrations earlier this year.
“There was a lot of and there still is a lot of…bigotry and fear of something different and new,” Mori says. “I’m non-binary and openly queer, which I think intimidates a lot of people.”
Mori is part of a small but growing number of magicians from underrepresented groups that have been able to break into the magic scene, and along the way, found a community with shared experiences.
Mori specializes in illusion, escape tricks, and card tricks. They boast over 600k followers on TikTok, where Mori posts videos about their life as a professional magician.
“I stepped away from magic for a couple of years, or at least the magic industry because there were many people that come from conservative backgrounds in the magic industry as a whole, who had called me some really nasty things,” Mori said.
When Mori returned to magic, they wanted to rediscover themselves from a place of empowerment, something they say social media has aided in.
The Magic Castle’s new junior class comes after accusations of abuse, sexual assault, and harassment against the Castle’s management.
“We’ve implemented a policy of zero tolerance, as far as any form of behavior towards any group…we have actually removed members from the club who are not with the program,” said Chuck Martinez, the Executive Director of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle.
Martinez was the president of the board of trustees at the Castle for the last 16 months, when eight out of nine board of directors positions became vacant. The board of directors is now made of eight members, including three women and two persons of color.
Elizabeth Messick, who performs under the stage name The Siren of Magic hosts many parties for The Los Angeles Women’s Magician’s Association.
“I’m trying to push that change forward by being welcoming and being the safe and the non-judgmental person,” Messick said.
Messick has built a little magic theater in her apartment, where she invites other women magicians to practice their tricks and receive critiques.
Messick says she struggled with mental health issues as she built her career, including doubts she was good enough because of the lack of people that were like her in the magic community.
“Removing the toxic people from my life was very very critical,” Messick said. “There’s already negative thoughts in my head, and if these other people are being negative it’s just very loud.”
This community of magicians in Los Angeles created a lot of solace for both Messick and Mori.
“I owe my whole career to women in magic, as they’re the only community that really accepted, embraced, and empowered me,” Mori said.