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Chicago entrepreneur creates ‘happy moments’ via South Loop’s Magic Selfie museum

Magic Selfies owner Zhazha Casanova champions a “hustlers’ spirit,” and hopes it rubs off on her three daughters.

Wednesday morning, Sept. 8, 2021.
Zhazha Casanova, owner of Magic Selfies, takes a selfie in the bathtub photo booth in the South Loop.
Mark Capapas/Sun-Times

Magic Selfies owner Zhazha Casanova, no matter what she’s done over time, takes pride in creating moments for customers they will remember for years to come.

“I just love creating experiences. I feel like life is all about experiencing moments,” said Casanova. “There are certain moments that stick with you like: ‘Man, that was a good time.’ ”

Casanova, a Mather High School alumna and Miami native, opened the South Loop’s Magic Selfies in February amid the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim of creating “happy moments” for customers far and wide.

The museum, which is located in the Roosevelt Collection Shops, has about 16,000 Instagram followers, and a steady customer base — an example of Casanova’s drive and promotion.

Each room includes powerful themes that change periodically such as a bathtub filled with rubber ducks, newspaper pages, a basketball motif, sunflowers, and a lifesize unicorn, among other backdrops.

“I can create these different rooms for people to come in and do that versus me helping one person individually,” said Casanova, who says she’s created Christmas and Beetlejuice-themed pop-ups. “It’s like I can help a lot of people; I’m sure there’s at least one person that you’re following or one person that you’ve seen that has a picture in one of these rooms.

“Some people come in here, and they’re so shy like: ‘Oh, I don’t know what to do.’ By the time they come back here, they’re a whole different person. In this space, you can be who you want to be. You can do TikTok [videos], and not feel stupid because everybody else around you is doing the same thing.”

Casanova, a creative director by trade, has a process where she imagines the themes for each room. She also rents a room that customers can utilize for birthday parties and other events.

, Wednesday morning, Sept. 8, 2021. Mark Capapas/Sun-Times
Zhazha Casanova, owner of Magic Selfies, looks at a sign that reads “Hustle” in the money photo booth in the South Loop.
Mark Capapas/Sun-Times

“The process is basically just figuring out what’s hot, what do people want, what colors do they want,” said Casanova. “It’s easy to put things up there, but it has to be what the people like. You can’t just be like: ‘OK, I might like the color pink,’ but everybody might not like pink. I’m saying I have to dibble and dabble and see what it’s looking like right now and what goes with the themes of this moment. It’s figuring out what rooms and what themes I want to create.”

Which rooms are the customers’ favorites?

Casanova says it’s “The Hustle Room,” where customers can throw fake dollar bills around, and she has an inclination as to why the room resonates.

“I think it’s a very powerful room,” she said. “ ‘Hustle’ means never giving up. It means consistency. It means always having a backup [plan]. I’ll always have a backup because when you’re a hustler you’re hustling. ... The hustlers’ mentality is being consistent with what you need to do and getting s— done.”

Zhazha Casanova has created a series of themed selfie rooms with plenty of diverse backgrounds at Magic Selfies.
Zhazha Casanova has created a series of themed selfie rooms with diverse backgrounds at Magic Selfies.
Mark Capapas/Sun-Times

Casanova, a brand manager with ​​Bombay Sapphire, has passed on the entrepreneurial spirit to her three daughters, and one of them works at Magic Selfie.

“I’m a kid at heart, so it’s all about for me showing them a way you can have fun and be a boss and you can make money, and do all these things that you want to do,” said Casanova. “I love creating and how to create stuff for people, so it was really important for me to showcase that. Your passion isn’t stopped because you have kids or anything like that; it should grow stronger so your kids can see anything is possible.

“Raising kids is very scary. I think sometimes when you’re a young parent you lose yourself; I never lost myself, and I think my kids appreciate that. I’m an honest parent and I show them anything is really possible.”