Marjorie Ocho Kouns is an artist in multiple mediums. She has created public art exhibitions around the world and offers body painting services to models, dancers and individuals (marjorieochokouns.com/fine-art/). Kouns is also a prolific voice artist (marjorieochokouns.com), coach and TV-film actor, having been heard everywhere from voicemail greetings to “Dora the Explorer.” More recently, she has appeared in film and on television programs such as “Salem” and “Human Telegraphs.”
Georgia Entertainment News: Which came first, painting or voice work?
Marjorie Ocho Kouns: I’ve been painting and drawing most of my life… I grew up in a home in Melrose Park, Illinois, with a big picture window facing the street. I was always the “seasonal window display” artist portraying visuals for our neighbors. You could call it my glass canvas! One university internship with MaryRose Carroll in Chicago led to an independent study in New York City my senior year resulting in a commissioned sculpture exhibited at Lincoln Center and then I moved out East to live in the heart of Greenwich Village. The rest is history.
GEN: So the little kid drawing pictures became the adult professional artist. That’s pretty cool.
MOK: I’ve created and produced public artworks from New York to Louisiana and Beijing to Berlin. Now I also produce legacy-worthy storytellers who are fueled by art, culture, and technology; and yes, I just happen to be one of them.
GEN: Who is your typical body painting subject/customer?
MOK: Dancers, aerialists – trapeze artists and actors and increasingly CEOs and fashion designers. I’d love to “brush up” on musicians, and film/TV actors who require that vibrant and jewel-like effect on stage or screen. My Marjorie Kouns – Body as Canvas works complement the industry needs at this auspicious time. Plus, I’m super excited to be one of the calavera – sugar skull – face painters this Saturday, Nov. 2, from 2-8 p.m. at Atlanta’s Mutiny Artwrx for their Day of the Dead Art and Culture Festival!
GEN: When did you begin doing voice work?
MOK: Oh gosh, back in college at Illinois Wesleyan University – WESN 88.1 FM – it’s almost OFF the radio dial. I was a DJ and then became a full-time voiceover talent almost 20 years later. I’ve kept the dream alive and made it a reality.
GEN: What got you involved in coaching?
MOK: Many of my co-workers and colleagues always admired my “liquid gold” voice, plus I speak five languages – English, Spanish, Mandarin, French and Greek. I’m my own client and have worked with many coaches over the years and still do.
GEN: And by now you’ve been coaching more than 2,500 students a year on online webinars, so you know both sides of it.
MOK: Indeed! Also, I love helping people own the skin they’re in. It’s all about the breath. When you’re comfortable with your body, how it truly thrives on the flow of oxygen, then your voice just shines through. As with any spiritual practice, including martial arts or yoga, it’s a lifelong journey. Coaching compliments my own process of living life and inviting others to love the life story they choose to tell in their own storytelling manner.
GEN: Some people have an intense dislike for automated phone systems. Are you conscious of that when producing a greeting or instructions?
MOK: Ha! I’m the voice you hate to hang up on! I’m known as the On-Hold Oligarch in the U.S. as well as abroad. What distinguishes my greeting is that I truly do my best to talk to you as a human being – not just reading instructions. Sometimes callers really think I am a real, live person answering their call, not just the on-hold messenger. I love when that happens.
GEN: DJs are often told that they “don’t look like their voice.” Do you get that?
MOK: Sometimes – hey, we’re voice actors and we can look like and sound like anyone to human beings with any ounce of imagination – that’s the joy of our craft. I get that a lot with voicing all the foreign languages; I certainly do not look like someone born from Chinese parents. However, I’ve been mistaken for the announcer’s manager at one at my live events – in Mandarin!
GEN: What was it like making the transition from voice acting to acting in front of a camera?
MOK: Intense at first. In voiceover, your lips are focused on the microphone and your eyes are focused on the copy. However, after many years of improv training and on-camera workshops, I’ve fallen in love with this new genre of my performing range.
GEN: What brought you to Georgia?
MOK: Change of lifestyle and the expanding entertainment industry. I lived as artist-in-residence and performed in both TV and film in Louisiana between 2010 and 2014 – right when Hollywood South was emerging. Change is key to a creative soul and it was time for that change. Since 1980, I’ve lived a creative and full life in NYC and abroad and quite frankly, the arts and culture scene is much more vibrant in places like Berlin, Germany, and now, Georgia, USA.
GEN: What do you like most about working down here?
MOK: The cross section of artisans and a down-home radical transplant community. I see a LOT more “pop-up” collaboration amongst stellar writers, producers, directors – and of course my fellow actors and artists. I’m excited to continue my storytelling here in Georgia!