We all want it, right? The “H-word”: Happiness, inner peace, and to feel good. It sometimes seems so attainable. At other times, it seems impossibly complicated. Sometimes a little guidance is needed… or even a complete makeover.
Rob Mack (www.coachrobmack.com) is a happiness coach and author. He writes and speaks to people about how to live happier lives from the inside, out. In addition to serving as a Celebrity Love Coach for the television show, Famously Single, on E!, Robert has been a featured guest expert for shows like The Today Show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, CBS Early Show, The Balancing Act, and AskHer.com and magazines like Self, Health, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and Upscale.
Rob is currently a co-host on “Good Morning LaLa Land” (focustvnetwork.com/goodmorninglalaland) every morning (9-10am PT on AppleTV, Roku TV, Focus TV, KnektTV, YouTube, Vimeo, and all social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Periscope)!
He has such a calming presence, is dedicated to his work and has an inner beauty that shines from the inside out. Rob keeps an incredibly busy schedule so we at Gemma appreciate his time talking to us. His insightful answers are inspiring!
Firstly, after reading your backstory, I was genuinely surprised by your admission to having an urge to end your life years earlier. I respect your honesty and value you creating awareness! I feel many people have had these thoughts but would never admit it. Can you pinpoint the decision to hold off?
Well, I was depressed for a very long time, for as long as I can remember being alive, honestly. When I finally decided that I couldn’t take it anymore, I conducted some research on suicide, on the means and methods, and on how to do it.
Eventually, I decided I was going to slit my wrist. I found a steak knife in the kitchen and began to bury the blade into my wrist. At that precise moment, however, as I started to cut into my arm, my mind got very quiet. My problems seemed to disappear, and a strange, unfamiliar peace pervaded me. It was then that I decided to postpone suicide for a little while. At first, I only committed to an hour. Before long, that hour turned into a day, that day became a week, and so on. During this time, I researched – and applied – everything I could learn about happiness.
I know you’re from Pennsylvania and earned a Master degree at Swarthmore College where you received your Bachelors of Science in Psychology, and the University of Pennsylvania, where you earned a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (M.A.P.P.), an ivy-league degree held by only a few dozen people in the world. Where do you get your motivation from?
I get my motivation from my parents. They are both highly motivated people, and that’s putting it lightly. Their work ethic is extraordinary.
My dad was in the military. After the military, he worked extra long hours at jobs for decades, sometimes attending night school simultaneously. My mother took care of us, 3 kids, while my dad worked, often while herself working a job, too. Later, when we became adults, she took a job at the airlines. She woke up at 3 am, drove an hour to work, pulled an 18-hour shift, drove an hour back home, slept 3-4 hours, and did it all over again, day after day, year after year. Not once did I hear either of them complain about this.
You are incredibly accomplished in addition to your academic achievements. Did school come naturally to you? Also, you currently have your own your private practice, correct?
I always considered myself average or below average in intelligence, so I always felt like I had to work harder than everybody else to get by. Looking back now, however, I realize that school came pretty easily to me. I did well in most subjects and always got straight A’s. I was salutatorian of my class. I was always the kid that the other kids cheated off of. Haha!
I have owned and operated my own private coaching practice for over 20 years now. I coach people from all walks of life, including professional athletes, actors and actresses, models, entertainers, executives, entrepreneurs, and everyday people alike. By applying ivy-league science, I help them experience greater authentic happiness and effortless success.
How did you know that you wanted more in life, take atypical risks, move to LA? Intuition is powerful and should be studied. How do you feel?
I had several really awful jobs growing up. I discovered pretty quickly that I wanted more out of life. I always wanted to be a professional basketball player, but that didn’t pan out. Starting in college, I tried to figure out my passion and purpose. I struggled with it, to be honest, for over ten years. In the end, I discovered psychology, self-help, and spirituality.
I wasn’t drawn to LA my whole life like many people are. However, after some serious soul searching, I realized that I wanted to help as many people as I possibly could. Plus, various professional opportunities in LA kept surfacing. LA kept calling me, literally, so I decided to make a move after my second season of “Famously Single” on E! I definitely tapped into my intuition through meditation to make that decision!
You seem very trusting of the theory “When you are Happy First, Success Follows.” However, I’m sure you can see why so many people feel the opposite. Can you please expand upon this.
First, happiness is the greatest success. No matter what we want to accomplish, achieve, or acquire in life, we want it because we think we’ll feel better as a result. We think it’ll make us happy. If we didn’t think it would make us happy – or, at least, happier – we wouldn’t want it at all. Success without fulfillment is a failure.
Second, happiness also leads to success. Based on the most recent research, we know that happiness leads to a better life. It leads to more money, better relationships, better health, a longer life, and so on. We know this from thousands of scientific studies.
You Wrote a book “Happiness From the Inside Out: The Art and Science of Fulfillment.” What was the creative process? Also, what inspired you to write it?
“Happiness from the Inside Out” began as a running list of happiness tips and tricks that I discovered in my life and the lives of my clients. It was a happiness journal of sorts.
Later, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Masters in Applied Positive Psychology Program (MAPP), I added science to it. Eventually, it became “Happiness from the Inside Out,” the book! (https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Inside-Out-Science-Fulfillment/dp/1577316584).
I’ve written four other books since then. I’ve learned a lot in the process. This is what I learned:
1. Keep it short and simple.
2. Write when the inspiration strikes (even if it’s just a few words).
3. Write for the joy of writing (and not for any other reason.
OK, Let’s talk about Love! How is your experience on “E’s! “Famously Single?” I’m sure that’s an example of challenging people on their limited belief systems.
“Famously Single” – and the good folks at Irwin Production – including superstar producers Pegah Sabheti and Damian Sullivan, let me be myself. I will always appreciate them for that. It was a truly wonderful experience, and I’m deeply grateful to have worked alongside superstar therapist Dr. Darcy and superstar dating coach Laurel House. They are both brilliant, beautiful women. It was an honor. It was fun, and the cast both seasons were phenomenal!
You seem so chill at all moments. Did you have to work at this, especially given the hectic schedule you have?
I used to be the most anxious person in the world! I have had to work extremely hard at it, yes. It’s been the single most dedicated pursuit of my life.
If a woman or man was looking for love (long-term) and knew this was essential to their happiness, what advice would you give?
If you’re looking for love, put happiness first. The happiest relationship consists of two independently happy people. Be happy – love will follow.
Second, love yourself – don’t wait. Life is short. Do for yourself now all the things you want a lover or partner to do for you in the future. Then, you’ll enjoy the journey and the destination. Plus, you’ll get there faster.
Tell me a bit about your podcast #ManWhisperer
Man Whisper was created by my “Famously Single” dating coach sidekick, Laurel House. We explore all things related to dating, love, and relationships. It’s both fantastically fun, and phenomenally informative.
Laurel and I compliment each other surprisingly well. She’s brilliant, beautiful, and honest! It’s no accident that KTLA, Match.com, and E! News call on her regularly to provide insightful guidance and reliable advice on love, dating, and relationships.
You work with two incredible women: Jezlan Moyet and Dr. Erin. I feel all 3 of you have excellent chemistry. What is it like hosting a live-streamed show five days/week?
Good Morning LaLa Land is the most fun, meaningful, inspiring conversation currently on the air! It is a pure pleasure and privilege to work with Dr. Erin and Jezlan. They are incredibly beautiful, bright lights, each with their own unique, divine gifts. It’s an honor to work alongside them every day.
Andy Waldman – the Executive Producer of Good Morning LaLa Land and Owner and CEO of Focus TV and Focus Magazine – is a heaven-sent, real-life angel. Associate Producer Victoria Simone is more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside, if that’s humanly possible, and she’s as smart, funny, and creative as anybody I’ve ever met. I’m beyond blessed to work with this all-star cast of creatives.
Also, our guests are phenomenally inspiring. I never cease to be impressed by their struggles, stories, resilience, courage, and faith, and I’m inspired every day to share their light and love with our rapidly growing audience across the world. We each have a dream job, even if we have to wake up at 3 am to make it happen! Lol.
The highlight of the year thus far for Good Morning La La Land has to be hosting the red carpet for the 2018 Daytime Emmy Awards. What a blast!
OK, I have to say it. Your Style! Do you enjoy fashion yourself or go with your wardrobe stylist’s advice at all times. It seems to come quite naturally. You have that amazing and that effortless vibe — on point!
I love fashion!
My best friend, Melanie Whittle, is a celebrity stylist. She’s dressed some of the most well-known actors, performers, and models on the planet. She’s curated a signature style just for me. I riff off that signature style the best I can, but I keep her on speed dial for those fashion emergencies and epic events like the Emmy’s. I’ll be calling her one day soon when we receive our own Emmy Award!
Melanie has now extended her brand and taken her creative wizardry, eye for aesthetics, and photographic panache into the world of home decor and real estate, so I miss her now more than ever.
I think I’m doing ok, though… at least, for now! Ask me again come award season! Lol.
We would like to thank Rob Mack for the inspiring interview. It’s always refreshing when someone shares their voice — their inner and honest thoughts and beliefs about their passion and life’s work.
To follow Rob on his social media platforms:
Blake Borders (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm8767522/?ref_=nv_sr_1) is only sixteen and is fiercely following his passion. Blake has numerous acting credits to his name and has no plans on slowing down. He has starred in various shorts and has an upcoming feature film coming out. Blake is not your typical teen, but he’s doing what he’s passionate about — acting. Blake Borders has fully committed himself to his craft and is making his mark. Talented, warm, and smart, he has a clear vision and works passionately to fulfill his dream. Blake is based in Clovis, Ca but makes the commute to Los Angeles for auditions, premieres, and scene study intensives. He has an extremely healthy perspective on the industry and is authentic in his desire to act.
He is currently signed with LA Management (with Addison Witt as his Manager) and recently signed with Alicia Beekman as his Agent with Commercial Talent Agency. An integral aspect of Blake’s success has been the immense support from both of his parents. Again, he’s only sixteen (and already passed the CHSPE Exam and his Driver’s test). After communicating with his mom, Heather Borders, it’s very inspiring to see her support. Recently Gemma Magazine had the fantastic opportunity to interview Blake, meet his family, and get to know him while he was in L.A. for an acting workshop.
It’s so lovely to meet you finally! Thanks for joining. What sparked your interest in acting?
Thank you so much for having me. I have always known since a young age that I wanted to perform. I would make movies with my sister and the neighborhood kids. I starred in a 4th-grade play and felt comfortable on stage. I ended up loving theatre program and my Elementary school productions. My passion grew from there. I decided to take it further. There was a local agency up north that led to some great connections and that eventually resulted in me signing with LA Management, (under the guidance of Talent Manager Addison Witt). It helped tremendously with castings, workshops, and support. I’m genuinely grateful for Addison Witt’s support. He’s made the entire process so much easier.
What was it like going from the theater to real-life auditions?
Auditioning, at first, made me incredibly nervous and I had to work through it. For a while, it was very challenging. However, I knew how much I enjoyed acting. Now, I’ve been performing consistently for over 2 1/2 years and auditioning feels natural.
How does acting make you feel (as Blake Borders)?
Acting makes me feel great. I’m in my element, and I find it joyful. I get to step outside of myself. It’s so much fun to see the final product after putting in so much work. With dramatic pieces, in particular, even more so. You get to connect with people in a way that would not usually do so in a regular job or profession. I also find joy in seeing the reaction on people’s faces after a film screening to see how it affects them. It’s always nice when the work you have been a part of touches other
The Fringe of Existence is upcoming, which is a very dramatic piece. How did the shoot go? Also, can you please expand on the director, Felipe Cisneros.
The Fringe of Existence was a fantastic experience. I play Harrison and the entire cast is great. Jackie Dallas also stars in it. It’s very dramatic. It’s currently going through the film festival process. Yes, Felipe Cisneros directed the film, who had such a strong vision from the beginning and that helped the film launch. He’s wonderful at communicating what he wants to the cast. That made it so much easier. Felipe also won best directing and writing for the film.
Farewell Cherry Summit is another great short film you starred in. Currently, it is on Youtube. We enjoyed your character Ben as well as the chemistry between you and Emmy (played by Bree Leon).
That was also a great project. Again, I play a shy kid in his shell, and he’s nerdy. His friend convinces him to go to a party to break the shyness shell. Events at the party end up going south. Although, he does meet Emmy, who is moving out of town the following day. Our characters end up spending the rest of the evening hanging out. “It was nice because the shoot was tiny and intimate. Bree and I had a lot of time to talk and connect on set.” Our characters bond so well by the end of the film, and I feel having a smaller production allowed Bree and I to get to know each other, which translated well onscreen.
I know you come to LA for scene study intensives. What is that like?
Intense! But also so inspiring and informative to keep building my craft. My teacher is amazing. She has this manner of looking for the best in everyone but she also tells you what you need to hear without sugar coating it, which produces success for others. I also do Improv classes in LA for 8-week sessions.
What can you tell us about Shards, which recently wrapped?
Shards is a horror film and my character’s name is Peter. I love horror films. Unfortunately, I can’t say too much since we recently wrapped the film. Again, it was such a great experience with the cast members and the director.
How excited are you about the feature film coming out called The Adventure of TP Man and Flusher?
Super happy! My character is ‘The Granddaddy’. It will be premiering December 2018. I play a mob boss with 1980’s clothing and a New York accent. This film is directed, written, and produced by Griffin Loch (who is 14). Griffen is amazing, and this film is his second feature film and focuses upon the tragic epidemic of teen suicide. It tells a true story of deep depression, laughter, love, and friendship.
Is memorizing lines somewhat easy for you?
I have to say it comes pretty naturally which is a gift. I’m able to read through a script quite quickly and get a good take on the character. From an actor’s perspective, this is extremely helpful. When you can memorize fast, it allows you to form the role within your head and play it out. If I look at the script too much, it’s not beneficial for me.
Do you think that you get typecast a lot as “the boy next door?”
Sometimes. I understand that it might be what many casting directors see initially. However, I’m incredibly outgoing and not a shy person. I enjoy each character that I take on. I must say that I am so blessed by working with such great directors and people on every film I have been a part of.
How do you feel about the support you have received from your mom?
Incredibly grateful! She is the ultimate “momager.” My mom takes care of the entire business side (emails, castings, scheduling, driving) so that I can entirely focus on the creative elements — auditions and preparing myself for filming. If I did not have my mom’s support, I would not be able to do what I do.
Where do you envision yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be on a network TV series, acting in films, and bringing people together through my work. My dream would be to have a sustainable career from acting. I’ve learned that in this business, you can’t let yourself get overwhelmed where you end up crashing. You have to be remarkably calm and keep moving forward with a strong support system.
“My dream is to bring joy to people through my films and bring people together through my work.” Blake Borders
The very first film that you starred in Say You Will is on Amazon. It’s a feature, and it also gives you the opportunity to see how far you have come.
It’s exhilarating. Say You Will is my very first film had the privilege of working on two years ago. It is out on Amazon and iTunes. It is a fantastic coming of age story. I can’t thank Nick Naveda (Director), Nancy Taylor, and Taylor Grabowsky (Producers) enough for the excellent opportunity that I was given.
We have covered a lot of your work. However, it would be amiss not to mention The Choice, a short you filmed with Director Glenn Spillman of Cellar 13 Films (cellar13films.com) about a teen boy that chooses to be different in terms of discovering his identity. What was the experience like?
The message is powerful and important. Glenn Spillman also plays my dad in the short. It’s about a teen boy that chooses to be different. The film has received a lot of exposure. At first, I was very unsure because I had never done anything like this before. However, Glenn Spillman was so encouraging and helpful. Glenn has been supportive during this journey.
Blake Borders has a lot to look forward to, and we can’t wait to watch his growth as an artist (even though he never quite stops). He’s very inspiring by following his passion and having fun while doing so. To follow Blake on social media
Lastly, on behalf of Gemma Magazine I would like to thank Blake Borders for the insightful interview, Glenn Spillman, who made the introduction, and Heather Borders for being so incredibly helpful during this process.
This year, celebrities did not disappoint with epic garments that look like they were made for the red carpet and all of the high fashion glamour. On the heels of New York Fashion Week, A-listers brought designers’ best to pre-show festivities while transforming the carpet to a runway of couture ensembles. They sparkle, awe and demonstrate the widely-celebrated allure of Hollywood.
Gemma tends to go for chic and simplistic. However, fashion is part fantasy, part artistry. It’s innovative to be bold and have standout pieces in cut, color, and overall aesthetic. However, classic glamour never goes out of style.
Here are Gemma’s picks:
Jessica Biel simply Shut It Down! Biel may just win her first Emmy tonight, and The Sinner actress — who is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress for her role in season one of the USA show — looked beautiful in a strapless white gown with half-circle shaped patches on it. The Ralph and Russo (ralphandrusso.com) couture dress was a stunner. Her hair was down with effortless waves, which made her bright red lip stand out.
The ‘This Is Us’ star always looks chic and Rodarte was a great choice for her. Metallic hues have dominated fashion runways for months. In all honesty, there’s something to be said about a beautifully understated minimal makeup look. Usually reserved for NYFW, on the red carpet it’s so refreshing. Mandy’s makeup artist Jenn Streicher created the beautiful, warm, bronze-y monochromatic makeup look on the This Is Us actress. It’s toned down and so refreshing.
Thandie Newton was an angelic vision in her floor-length off-the-shoulder Vivienne Westwood pink gown. Newton wore Harry Winston baubles and very minimal makeup (yet, with pink-ish tones).
Zoe Kravitz was fabulous in feathers! She was a showstopper as she posed in an eye-popping Dior dress covered in rainbow-colored feathers and was black above the waist on the red carpet at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The actress, 28, was joined by her dashing actor boyfriend Karl Glusman for the HBO drama “Big Little Lies.”
The sleeveless number featured a cleavage-baring neckline that fell almost to her midriff, and she accessorized the look up a notch up the look with a double-necklace and earrings.
She wore a long-sleeve belted black Zuhair Murad dress with structured shoulders and the gown featured a sultry plunging neckline design. While her midsection was covered in black feathers, the bottom portion of her look revealed two thigh-high slits. It was a sexy look for her and worked well.
Everyone looked great and some stood out. The women that can combine their dress, makeup hues, hair and jewelry into a niche look have it figured out. It might look effortless, but each detail is pre-planned.
If you adore the Netflix series “Ozark” the way we do, then you know that Julia Garner, who plays Ruth Langmore, is incredible. Julia is a brilliant actress, and she came on the Ozark scene like a firecracker and is still popping. Netflix is currently streaming “Ozark” season 2, and it’s fantastic. Once again, Ruth is front and center and ready for action.
For a bit of backstory, after a deal with a drug cartel goes south, “Ozark” follows financial planner Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his family as they are forced to relocate from Chicago to a summer resort community in the Missouri Ozarks. Laura Linney stars as Marty’s wife who gets involved with real estate to help Marty launder money after they move to Missouri. Their paths cross with fan favorite and resident badass Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), who also gets involved in Marty’s laundering business.
Garner is a standout, and you can’t help but love her. Jason Bateman (also Executive Producer) is so talented as usual. Marty is a force to be reckoned with — but in a quiet and stoic manner. It’s a bit of crazymaking behavior but it all makes sense to Marty.
Julia Garner is an American actress and model and only 23. She has appeared in the films “Martha Marcy May Marlene”(2011), “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”(2012), “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” (2014) and has leading roles in “Electrick Children,” “We Are What We Are,” and “Grandma.”
Her role as Ruth Langmore, in “Ozark,” is one she has made her own. Ruth is the girl from the wrong side of the tracks living in rural Missouri with dysfunctional extended family members. She’s immensely street smart, wants a better life, and will do what it takes to achieve it. The girl has goals. Langmore basically plays all roles to her family members: caretaker, mom, disciplinarian, decision maker, and the breadwinner.
Here are our five reasons we love Ruth:
Incredibly Strong- Ruth does not take shit from anyone. Some might describe her as bitter, (especially given her family situation), but in reality, it’s like she has a sixth sense in order to protect herself and her family. Ruth is very aware of people, their intentions, and keeps all necessary information to herself. However, Ruth is not afraid to ask questions, take criminal risks and keeps moving. You have to respect her ability not to overthink.
Wicked Smart– She was the first to give Marty a run for his money (Literally). There is a pivotal scene where Marty knows he is dealing with a smart and savvy young woman who has the potential to be a criminal. It’s not long afterward that they become partners in business. Just the way Marty looks at Ruth is classic.
Ambitious – Ruth will not stop at anything to get what she wants — money, a better opportunity, or even defending her family at times. As crazy as her family is, she remains loyal overall. In season 2, Ruth encourages Wyatt (her cousin) relentlessly to go to college. She knows he’s smart and Ruth says “You are not like the rest of us Langmores.” Unfortunately, when Ruth visits the school counselor on Wyatt’s behalf, she ends up punching her. I mean, it happens.
Hilarious– Julia Garner is serious in how she plays Ruth. It is possible that the writers did not anticipate that she would become such a scene stealer. Julia delivers her lines with such perfection, and sometimes it’s downright hilarious. Her comebacks alone are sharp and quick. She may not have a filter, but she’s always on point.
Vulnerable – In Season 2, the audience sees a more vulnerable side to Ruth. As the FBI starts to close in on Marty and the Byrde family, Ruth finally feels the pressure and does show more emotion. Besides, her ex-con/abusive dad is back home, and that stirs up a lot of angst for her. Ruth desperately wants his love and acceptance — even when he encourages her to make the wrong choices. The audience starts to understand a bit why Ruth is the way she is. The scene where she is taking a shower after FBI questioning and physical abuse is heartwrenching. Underneath it all, Ruth is a young woman who wants to be loved. She was not dealt the best hand in life and has been on her own for the majority. She’s still strong throughout and for this, watching Ruth Langmore is priceless.
One added element: Ruth’s scenes with Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman). There is intensity, awkward encounters, and they could not be more different. Yet, when they look at each other and converse, it’s almost like there is a sense of self-reflection.
Ozark (Season 2) is currently streaming on Netflix. If you are into crime and heavy drama, you will love this show. On an end note, the entire cast (Laura Linney, Mike Moseley, Lisa Emery, and Peter Mullan) is phenomenal, the directing is so well done, and the series itself is a standout in an “outsider” type of way.
Maxine Smith has been painting for over eighteen years. Her sense of detail, color choices and subjects are truly phenomenal. Maxine works in both oil and acrylic paint. Maxine Smith’s work is personal and intimate and she has accomplished what great artists do; she evokes emotion, thought, and meaning through her work. Her paintings are stylized. Gemma Magazine recently had the fantastic opportunity to attend her most recent exhibition at The Skidmore Contemporary Galley in Los Angeles, and the portraits featured embody warmth, color, and human faces that all have stories to tell. They can be the artist’s stories or the viewer’s stories. That is up to you. However, one look at her work, and it will resonate within.
Maxine Smith feels her lifetime love of color and design gave her great appreciation of art. Smith took classes intermittently in her 30’s and 40’s at The Art Students League in New York. After relocating to Los Angeles and resuming her love of painting, her particular style began to emerge. At this point, Smith took a sharp turn into the world of working professionally as an artist. Smith’s works are now in several private collections, and she has participated in gallery shows in New York City, East Hampton, and Los Angeles.
One of the most recent compilations is her work from her “AT YOUR SERVICE” series, which continues her essential exploration of the human face. If you think about it, the face is a very personal element and can be perceived by an artist in many different ways. While visiting her exhibition, I had the opportunity to speak with Maxine Smith. On behalf of Gemma Magazine, I honestly have to say Maxine is one of the kindest and most gracious artists I have ever interviewed. Maxine also has a great sense of style and is very individual in her choices.
GM: It is incredible to meet you in person. As I look around the room at your beautiful exhibition, it’s filled with colorful and surprising portraits of strangers yet they are mesmerizing. Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?
MS: I was not aware of it back then but I started by copying Keene portraits at the age of 16. This ignited my passion but eventually, my interest turned to interior design and that became my career path, one I was fortunate enough to have.
GM: How did your career in interior design start?
I was living in London at the time in a flat that I decorated. There is a designer I adored named Zandra Rhodes, who is London based. I designed our home using dress designer Zandra Rhodes fabrics for walls and upholstery and it was a first for both of us. The flat ended up being photographed for British Vogue by photographer Richard Clarke. This started my career as a designer.
GM: What elements inspire you as an artist and how would you describe your art?
My portraits become real people to me and therefore are similar to characters that are my friends. They may start as strangers but take on a deeper meaning. I work from both live models and photographs. Only recently did I realize I was painting through the use of fabric, color, and pattern. That was my signature.
GM: Strangers, correct, inspire all of your portraits? (people you notice restaurants, stores, etc.?)
Yes! I’m an observer of sorts and enjoy people watching. Sometimes there is something in the face of a person that attracts me. “There is always a certain something that draws me to the subject. That is how the painting process begins.”
GM: I especially enjoy “At Your Service” where you feature portraits of a bellman, a housekeeper, and a chef to name a few. There is something so mundane, yet potent in these. Can you expand?
In my series “AT YOUR SERVICE,” I’ve created portraits of people who don’t often have the opportunity to be painted. It’s a collection of images of people working in the service industry. The Housekeeper and The Bellman exemplify this approach through the careful clarification of details and use of limited palettes. These are people who press our suits and iron our clothes but so often go unnoticed and unappreciated. This series gave them their moment.
Overall, Maxine’s art makes you think and that is what authentic art is about. Maxine’s work is a beautiful combination of artistry, talent, and the human connection. Gemma Magazine is looking forward to her next exhibition and cannot wait to attend again.
“I hope that the viewer feels some emotion when they look at the portraits I’ve created…a smile, a question, a thought…something that makes them linger.” (Maxine Smith)
To follow Maxine Smith on her social platforms, here are her links.
Mouna Traoré is a force — a fantastic actress, who takes her craft seriously and continues to make it fun! Mouna is currently starring on the popular legal drama, In Contempt on BET (www.bet.com) as “rookie” Public Defender Vanessa Hastings. Mouna also made an impact with her portrayal of Dr. Rebecca James on the series Murdoch Mysteries. Traoré is a very talented actress with a beautiful sense of style and a lovely screen presence. Mouna is also a producer and currently has a secret project in the works. She is definitely on the rise, and it was exciting to speak with her about her character roles, her acting ambitions, and her eclectic background.
Mouna Traoré was born and raised in Toronto in a very diverse and multicultural community. Mouna has a big, blended family, with three sisters and one brother, who are all her best friends. “I’m so grateful to be from Toronto because it’s a city that deeply loves and supports the arts.” “I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a lot of art at an early age and given many opportunities to express myself in different mediums,” says Traoré. When she was not filming or traveling, she spoke with Gemma Magazine.
GM: Hi Mouna!! Thank you for joining us. Did you always know that you were interested in the arts and when did you decide to make it a career?
I knew I wanted to be a performer before I even knew what acting was. I must have been 3 or 4! I never also questioned whether or not to make being an actor my career. It was automatic – an inherent knowledge I had early on. I feel like most of the decisions I made as a child, and young adult was with the mindset that it was what I was going to do. I never considered anything else.
GM: You have such a striking presence as well as a beautiful sense of style. Are there specific fashion brands that you adore?
I love the simple elegance of French brands like Iro and Isabel Marant for day to day wear, and I like to mix things up with Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. I definitely can’t get enough Pleats Please! I am particularly obsessed with Loewe handbags…
GM: In Murdoch Mysteries, you played Dr. Rebecca James. She’s a great character and develops so well throughout the series into such a rich and multi-dimensional character. How would you describe Rebecca?
Curious, determined, resourceful, and diligent. Rebecca is a humble girl that has an intense thirst for knowledge and genuinely wants to help and support the people around her, especially the constabulary.
GM: I also enjoy your character, Vanessa Hastings, on In Contempt. How has it been working on a legal drama and learning the courtroom jargon?
I think that working on a legal drama is so much fun because the stakes are always so high. Learning the courtroom jargon was a lot to get through, and I found it challenging at times. Playing Rebecca James somewhat prepared me, because medical language from the early 1900’s was also challenging to learn.
GM: Do you feel Vanessa likes her job as a public defender? She is known as “the rookie” and does seem surprised by what her job entails.
Vanessa learns to love her job by the end of the season. Since she starts out as the “rookie,” she learns as she goes along. It’s an entirely new world for her, which is why it seems like she’s a deer in headlights every episode.
GM: I know you travel a lot and are from Canada. However, how do you like LA?
LA is a great city. A little too much driving for me but I feel more and more at ease there. However, I’m very close with my family, and it’s pretty heartbreaking to have so much distance between us.
GM: You are a producer as well. Are you currently working on a project?
I am currently writing a script. It’s too secret (mainly because I’m super sensitive about the whole concept of the project!)
GM: You have been described as having infectious energy on set and so much fun to work with. Is this just a natural part of your personality?
Yeah! I sometimes describe myself as an 8-year-old boy on drugs. I’m a very open, impulsive, energetic person and I’ve been that way my whole life. I’ve calmed down in the past few years, but I’m still a lot for some people to handle.
GM: Can you give us any clues regarding Vanessa in the upcoming season?
Zero! … I’m still waiting to hear about Season 2 being picked up!
We cannot wait to see what is in store for Mouna Tratoré— Television, and Film!
All Photos by Lenard Smith
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