The Zig-Zag Girl illusion is a magic trick akin to the more famous sawing a woman in half illusion. In the Zig-Zag illusion, a magician divides his or her assistant into thirds, only to have the assistant emerge from the illusion at the end of the performance completely unharmed.
Since its invention in the mid 1960's by magician Robert Harbin it has been hailed as one of the greatest illusions ever invented due to both the apparent impossibility of the trick, and the fact that unlike many illusions it can be performed surrounded by spectators and withstand the close scrutiny of audience members.
Because of the manner in which the illusion is achieved, it is generally performed with a female assistant, and there are limitations on her height and weight. Some of these issues are overcome in Modern Art, an illusion created by Jim Steinmeyer.
The assistant (usually a woman) is placed in an upright cabinet, her face, hands, and left foot visible through openings in the cabinet's front. Large, metallic blades are inserted horizontally in the cabinet's mid-section, dividing it, and the assistant inside, into thirds. The magician then slides the cabinet's mid-section apart from the cabinet's top and bottom thirds, moving the assistant's mid-section away from the rest of her and giving her a "zig-zag" shape. While divided, a small door on the cabinet's mid-section can be opened to examine, and even touch, the assistant's body inside, a duty frequently performed by an audience member brought up on stage to help perform the illusion. This helps to prove to the audience that the assistant has indeed been divided into three pieces. At the completion of the illusion, the assistant's mid-section is slid back into place, the two blades removed, and she steps out of the cabinet unscathed.
In recent years, a number of magicians have begun performing variations on the basic illusion. In some, rather than the assistant's face being visible through a hole in the front of the cabinet, their entire head projects out of the cabinet through a hole in its upper surface.
In another variation, rather than being divided into three pieces, the assistant is instead divided into five - This variation is commonly referred to as the "Five-Way Zig-Zag".
A third variation features a box designed in such a way that, instead of just being slid to the side, the centre section can be completely removed and placed on a separate supporting table. Once it has been placed there, an audience member is then invited to shake the assistant's hand and feel their body inside the box.
Over the years, a number of celebrities have participated in the Zig Zag Girl illusion.
- Singer Christina Aguilera was zig-zagged during a photo-shoot for Rolling Stone.
- Model Alessandra Ambrosio was zig-zagged during a photo-shoot for a Mexican department store.
- TV presenter Linda Barker was zig-zagged by Joe Labero on his TV special Magician Impossible.
- Actress Mischa Barton has been zig-zagged several times at private parties while assisting magicians that she is friends with.
- In the teen comedy show Clueless, the season 3 episode A Test of Character featured a scene where lead actress Rachel Blanchard was zig-zagged by one of the other regular cast members, whose character was an amateur magician rehearsing for the school talent show.
- Model Camilla Christensen was zig-zagged by British magician Troy as part of the 2014 French Connection Fall/Winter advertising campaign.
- Singer and actress Cher was zig-zagged by Mark Wilson on her 1970s TV show.
- Dita Von Teese was zig-zagged by Vanessa Upton as part of Agent Provocateur's magic themed Box of Tricks fashion show.
- TV presenter Janet Ellis was zig-zagged on Blue Peter in 1984.
- Jennifer Ellison was zig-zagged by Stephen Mulhern on Tricky TV.
- Actress Jennifer Garner was zig-zagged during a photoshoot at the Teen Choice awards show.
- Singer Geri Halliwell was often zig-zagged while working as the regular assistant to Terrid Alsabo.
- Model and TV presenter Ana Hickmann was zig-zagged by Mario Kamia on her TV show.
- Sophie Howard was zig-zagged by Alex Sim-Wise for a Front photoshoot.
- Actress Lori Loughlin was zig-zagged by Dave Coulier on Full House.
- Singer Katie Melua was zig-zagged by Scott Penrose during a celebrity magic show on Children in Need.
- Model and TV presenter Melinda Messenger was zig-zagged by Lynx on Eurotrash.
- Singer Marie Osmond was zig-zagged by her brother Donny Osmond on The Donny & Marie Show.
- Supermodel Claudia Schiffer was zig-zagged by her first husband David Copperfield when they both appeared on the January 9th 1996 episode of BBC daytime show Pebble Mill.
- Singer Britney Spears was zig-zagged by Ed Alonso during her Circus tour.
- Magician Princess Tenko often performs the illusion as the assistant inside the box.
- Supermodel Twiggy was zig-zagged by Robert Harbin in an early performance of the illusion.
- Singer Una of the Saturdays was zig-zagged by band mate Mollie on Tricky TV in 2010
- TV presenter Holly Willoughby was zig-zagged by Stephen Mulhern on Ministry of Mayhem.
- Actress Alicia Witt was zig-zagged by an unknown magician at a charity event.
- Cindy Williams was zig-zagged by David Copperfield on his first TV special in 1978.
- In the 2006 movie Scoop, the lead character of Sondra Pransky, played by Scarlett Johansson, attends a magic show where she is picked out from the audience and invited on stage by magician Sid Waterman (played by Woody Allen). Having helped out with a card trick, she is then zig-zagged.
- In April 2021, Brazilian TV presenter Patricia Abravanel was zig-zagged by magician Mario Kamia.
- Camilla Christensen Serves Up Magic Tricks for French Connection’s Fall Ads fashiongonerogue.com