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Collins Key earns acclaim on popular talent show
By Stephanie Sumell
ACE IN THE HOLE—Moorpark resident Collins Key, 17, took fifth place on the television show “America’s Got Talent” earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Collins Key.

Don't be fooled by Collins Key's age.

He’d rather fool you with his magic routine.

The 17-year-old Moorpark resident has proven himself as an up-and-coming magician, nearly winning NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” with a collection of tricks that left audience members scratching their heads and wondering what the teen would do next to top himself.

His act isn’t about pulling a rabbit from a hat but doing entertaining, innovative routines for all audiences.

“I want to make (magic) a fun, interactive and relatable experience,” Collins said, “a really young, hip and relevant art form that people of all ages can enjoy together.”

Collins took fifth place on Sept. 18 in New York during the season finale of the popular talent show that introduced the teen to a national audience and launched his career.

Kenichi Ebina, a dancer, won the $1-million grand prize to cap the show’s eighth season.

The show, hosted by Nick Cannon, included a judges’ panel of show business personalities: Mel B, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern.

Collins, who was homeschooled his entire life, said he feels honored to have competed against such high-caliber contestants.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for the show,” he said. “You see a lot of shows that embrace so many different talents.”

The journey to Radio City Music Hall began in March when the young magician performed before a crowd of more than 800 in San Antonio, after being urged to audition by the show’s talent scouts.

“I didn’t feel my magic was ready for the show,” Collins said. “Finally one of my mentors convinced me to go for it.”

The decision would change the teen’s life.

The crowd in San Antonio gave Collins a standing ovation when he burned a dollar bill and then made it reappear intact in a sealed bag of popcorn.

“Today you proved something,” Stern said as Collins wiped tears from his eyes after the audition. “You’ve got the goods, you’ve got charisma (and) you know how to handle yourself. For 16 years old, it’s quite remarkable”

Mandel was also impressed.

“I believe, at 16 years old, you have just stepped, sir, into your future,” he said.

That was just the beginning.

The teen had to create new and creative acts between tapings—a feat that required hard work and perseverance.

Steven Muchnij, Collins’ father, said his son thrived under pressure.

“Because Collins is only 17, he didn’t have 10, 20, 30 years of material he could work off of,” Muchnij said. “To be able to perform the magic he did for the first time on national television? If he can make it through that, he can make it through anything.”

But Collins, who also acts and raps, said he was just doing what he loves.

The teen started practicing magic at age 12 as a way to connect with others.

“I’ve always been an entertainer (but) magic just clicked for me,” said Collins, who has performed in the Magic Castle’s junior program since he was 13. “I started doing it just for fun, and it’s crazy how far I’ve come.”

As a child, Collins could find an audience wherever he went, his dad said.

“We’d go into Verizon store, I’d look around and nobody would be helping customers anymore. Everybody was standing around watching him. . . . He really put himself out there.”

But what started as a hobby evolved into a way to make money.

Collins performs at birthday parties, corporate events and weddings.

He recently was seen at this year’s Third of July fireworks show in Moorpark.

He gained an online following through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

In fact, Collins has more than 175,000 followers online.

What’s next for the young performer?

Like in any good magic routine, fans will just have to wait and see.

The young performer has more tricks up his sleeve for audiences to enjoy.

“I want to change the way people view magic,” Collins said. “It’s taking stuff people have seen before and putting a new twist on it.”

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