This is the story of two beautiful immigrants who move to LA — from Sweden and Canada/Kurdistan respectively — and stake their claim on the American dream. It’s a real, Horatio Alger, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story, but in really fabulous boots, in this case worn by Swedish-born makeup artist and skincare entrepreneur Lina Hanson (who’s work has been featured in Vogue, Elle, W., InStyle and Harper’s Bazaar, and who’s painted the likes of Natalie Portman, Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Javier Bardem, to name a few), and her actor/filmmaker/business partner husband Kordo Doski, fresh off of making Kinetic, his first feature film as writer/director/producer and star, filmed in his native Kurdistan. We caught up with the international couple in their Los Angeles home on the day before they wed.
You’re getting married tomorrow! I’m honored you made time to sit down and talk with me!
Kordo: No problem.
Lina: We’re happy to do it.
Where are you getting married?
Lina: On the beach in Palos Verdes, California, about an hour south of Los Angeles.
Are you taking a honeymoon?
Kordo: We are. We’re flying out the day after the wedding to Rio de Janeiro and Ilha Grande, Brazil for two weeks.
That sounds amazing…and appropriate. You’re an international couple with roots in Sweden, Canada and Kurdistan between you. Lina, you’re Swedish with a Swedish mother and a Pakistani father, and Kordo you’re Kurdish-Canadian, having been born in Kurdistan, and having moved to Canada with your family when you were four. How did you each end up in L.A.?
Kordo: I was acting in Toronto and I wanted to see how I would fare here, so I came out, took a few meetings that I’d set up from Canada and found representation.
Lina: I moved from Sweden to New York, actually, in 1999. I lived in New York for about 8 years, where I started out assisting Jeanine Lobell, the huge makeup artist. I would assist her on jobs, and we would fly to L.A. sometimes for the Oscars, along with doing fashion shows in New York. After a few years, I went out on my own. I worked a bit in New York, but I needed a change and thought LA would be a good place to go because there’s a lot of opportunity here, red carpet, commercials…
How’d you meet Jeanine?
Lina: Jeanine grew up in Sweden. We had a mutual Swedish friend and, at the time, I was studying fashion styling at FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] and she said, “Maybe you want to start doing makeup; it kind of goes hand and hand.” And she brought me on board. I learned from the best. She’s been a mentor and she’s inspired me.
You’ve both made your own way in the world, you’ve been your own fairy godmother. Where does that independent streak come from?
Lina: I’ve always done things my own way, I’ve always been independent. I grew up in a small town and learned from a very young age, “take care of yourself.” I always had a summer job, always learned to manage my money. And we had a vision of having a brand and a company, and I’ve had this vision for a long time, and so we did it.
Kordo: I think the thing we have in common is that we’re both dreamers. We come from the mindset of creating what we want as opposed to waiting for it to happen.
In January you launched your eponymous skincare line with your inaugural product, Lina Hanson Global Face Serum. Tell us about the product.
Lina: Lina Hanson Global Face Serum is an all natural moisturizer that gives your skin a beautiful glow from within. It’s 100% natural and made from highly effective ingredients sourced from all around the world, from Brazil, Japan, The Middle East, Africa, Indonesia, India, Europe. It works for all skin types and all ethnicities.
It’s really taken off. Since January, you’ve been written up in magazines like UK Harper’s Bazaar and U.S. Elle. How did you get that level of press attention for such a young brand?
Lina: Honestly, it was word of mouth. Originally, we weren’t even selling the serum, I was using it on myself and my clients and sharing it with my friends. But word got out, the serum created a lot of buzz, and the press started contacting us. We got our first press mention when one of my celebrity clients listed Global Face Serum as one of the products she uses in a piece in UK Harper’s Bazaar.
How did you get interested in green beauty, because, at this point, it’s clearly a passion. You’ve written a book, launched a skincare line and built a successful career as a makeup artist, all from a green point of view.
Lina: I grew up in an eco-conscious household, eating organic, and I have to say that moving to L.A. opened my eyes even more to a green lifestyle. So it was something that grew naturally out of living a healthy lifestyle. I was also writing a blog at the time, and had a lot of products sent to me for the blog. I started paying attention to the ingredient lists, and did research and learned that a lot of products contain harsh chemicals that aren’t good for your skin or your health. So I became interested in green or what’s also known as all-natural products, and ended up switching-out my entire make-up kit for all green products.
Let’s talk about your book Eco-Beautiful. The subtitle is “The Ultimate Guide To Natural Beauty And Wellness” and I have to say, it really is the ultimate guide. You cover everything from the effects of the food we eat on the heath and aging of our skin, to how to choose and apply makeup to enhance our natural beauty, whatever our coloring, features or ethnicity, to how to address the unique skin challenges men face as a result, for example, of daily shaving, to which green beauty products and brands really get the job done, whether it’s skincare products, makeup or nail polish. What inspired the book?
Lina: I had switched out my blog to an all green approach, and the book evolved from there. I wanted to show people that you can get the same makeup look using all green products. My goal was to educate people in an easy way that there are plenty of safer and healthier alternatives out there. You don’t have to sacrifice the way you look by choosing to go green.
Your “beauty around the world” philosophy takes the green-beauty conversation deeper. Where does your commitment to global beauty come from, and how is it shaping the development of your brand?
Lina: We believe in doing our part to make the world a better place, so for us that meant sourcing our ingredients from all over the world, and doing what we can to help support sustainable harvesting. We work with producers, women’s cooperatives and farmers worldwide.
Kordo: I also think being from a mixed background, in Lina’s case, and from another part of the world in mine gave us a different appreciation for global beauty in the literal sense. We wanted to find out what people have been doing — in some cases for centuries — in different parts of the world. What are they using in Brazil, Japan, the Middle East, Africa?
Lina: It’s also been important to us that the products work for everyone, no matter their age, skin type or ethnicity. We wanted to simplify skincare in that way.
Instead of having to change your skincare regimen when you turn 30 or 40 or beyond, you can use the same serum throughout life. It’s the simplicity you spoke about earlier, and a great reminder that nature provides. So, how do you use the serum?
Lina: You just apply one pump in the morning and another pump at night before bed. It’s also great before any makeup application. it gives your skin a great glow.
Do you use it in lieu of moisturizer or in addition to a moisturizer?
Lina: It’s really up to each person. I use it alone, but some people like to layer a moisturizer on top. And the serum does not contain SPF, so applying some SPF if you plan on staying in the sun is a good idea.
What about anti-aging benefits?
Lina: The serum has tons of anti-aging benefits. The oils we use in the serum have been around for centuries. In different parts of the world that’s all they use. We’ve combined a number of different oils that each have built-in anti-aging properties. For example, Marula, a sustainable oil harvested by women in South Africa, is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and has other anti-aging properties.
What’s next for the Lina Hanson brand?
Lina: We are working on expanding our skincare line into a full line of products. Our next product is a body serum, set to launch in Spring 2013.
I’ll be looking out for it. Now the two of you are a team in business and in life. Kordo plays a key role behind the scenes at Lina Hanson, but this year, Kordo, you also wrote, directed, produced and starred in your first feature film, Kinetic, filmed in your native Kurdistan. What’s the film about?
Kordo: It’s about a former soccer player who’s in a dead-end job. His one true love was soccer, and one day he comes home and his girlfriend of 8 years leaves him. It turns his world upside down and forces him to step out of his comfort zone and pursue something everyone says he’s too old for. The story’s about his journey back to playing soccer in the one place where he can still play: Northern Iraq.
The stories you tell place their emphasis on the human drama. They’re marked by a great depth of emotion, have universal themes, and frequently have an international component. What are your influences, and what are your preoccupations as a storyteller?
Kordo: I can only tell stories that are close to my heart. Those are the only films I care to make. Where I am in life, these are the themes and ideas that pop up most, so that’s what I write.
You began your career as an actor. When did you decide that you wanted to direct?
Kordo: I always knew I would. I just didn’t know how. I was writing quite a bit, trying to create vehicles for myself as an actor, and at one point I shot a documentary in Northern Iraq/Kurdistan. My agent was giving me a bit of a hard time about being gone so long so I decided to shoot something that featured myself and I ended up shooting a short. It was accepted into a couple of festivals and did well and then I submitted a script and short film to Film Independent. I was chosen for one of their fellowships and by the time the fellowship was over, I was ready to make a feature film.
As an actor working in Hollywood, you invariably face typecasting. It’s a fact of life no matter who you are, but it can be particularly limiting for actors of African-American, Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American heritage, who are more likely to be cast in ethnically-specific roles, and less likely to be cast just as “the guy”. Kinetic seems to provide a built-in opportunity for you to demonstrate that you can play beyond type. Would you agree?
Kordo: Absolutely. I’ve been cast in stereotypical roles but I don’t see myself that way and I don’t think people who know me see me that way. Sometimes to break out of the mold, you have to create your own opportunities.
There seems to be a growing trend with actor-hyphenates launching big careers by writing, directing or producing independent films they also star in. Lena Dunham comes to mind, the writer/director of Tiny Furniture and the creator and star of HBO’s Girls. So does Brit Marling, the star and writer/producer of Another Earth and Sound Of My Voice who’s now starring opposite Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon in Arbitrage and who’s continuing to write and produce films. What are the advantages of doing it yourself?
Kordo: The advantage is that you’re taking responsibility for your career and how you want to be seen instead of waiting for the right audition, which may never come. Instead, you’re putting your effort into creating a product that speaks for itself. Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture is a great example of that. It’s a beautifully shot project, she used her mom and sister, and I’d done the same thing with my short film. Before that she’d done it with another feature, and now she has her own show on HBO, executive produced by Judd Apatow [Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin]. That happened because she trusted herself and people valued her unique voice. Had she gone the audition-only route, her time might not have come as fast.
So what’s next for you?
Kordo: I have a few projects right now that I’m excited about, but the journey of my current film, Kinetic, will dictate what’s next.
Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
Lina: We’ve grown to really love LA., we may never leave, but I do see us traveling a lot in the future and experiencing a lot of different countries.
Kordo: And there’s this idea I have. I call it levels of heaven. You ask where we’ll be in 10 years and I feel, for the first time over these last months, that I’ve experienced the first level of heaven. You can always have more money and more opportunities, but there’s a lifestyle I aspired to and I am living that life now. We’re fortunate to have a great relationship, and we’re doing things that we love. We live in a city where it’s warm, year-round, we have wonderful family and friends. We have a great product, and the film is doing well. In ten years, I see us living the life we’re living now, but on a larger scale, living in the levels of heaven that we already live in now.
Lina: [nods] Finding that happiness within yourself is so important… Creating that life that you want to live.
Kordo: It could be anywhere. We could go to Rio. We’re gypsies at heart, so that could very well happen, but this level of happiness right now… I’m doing everything I want to do. If people can respect what we’re doing, and we can maintain this happiness that we have, this is it.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ISAAC STERLING
Tags: A Couple Of Revelers, Actors, Brit Marling, Eco-Beautiful, Entrepreneurs, FILM, Filmmakers, Global Beauty, Green Beauty, Independent Film, Kinetic, Kordo Doski, Lena Dunham, Lina Hanson, Lina Hanson Global Face Serum, Makeup Artists, Natural Beauty, REVEL LIFE, The People