Arna Magnea Danks. Photo / Anna Maggý

Being Real To Be Better At Pretend

Arna Magnea Danks has worked behind the scenes in numerous films and television shows, primarily as a fight director and stunt coordinator and performer in such titles as Sense8, Game of Thrones, Trapped, and much more.

She will soon be starring in a major acting role in the upcoming movie Ljósvíkingar, wherein she plays one of two lifelong friends who start a business together, only for one of them to come out as a trans woman–that trans woman being played by Arna Magnea.

In a time when so many trans women are played by cis women (and even, more insultingly, cis men), it’s always refreshing to see an actual trans woman get roles like this. But in Ljósvíkingar, the script is flipped in an even more delightful way.

“I’m the trans woman Birna, but there is in the beginning of the film, you see me in the male role and I have to wear a fake beard,” she says. A trans woman donning makeup in order to play male role subverts the usual expectations, and the role itself attracted Arna Magnea’s attention in large part because she didn’t want the role to go to a cis person.

After I came out, and, and stopped pretending to be something I wasn’t, acting became easier.

“I thought, I’m the only trans woman in Iceland who’s a trained actress,” she says. “But the production company, they weren’t sure that I could play a man. Because I had transitioned so much. So I went for eight different auditions to prove that I could do this. And eventually, I got the role. And so this is my first lead role in a major film, and I’m really excited about this.”

One of the challenges of playing a male role was changing her voice, describing the difficulty of “finding my old voice again, that I spent so many years and months trying to get rid of completely, and finding my new voice that sits quite well with me, that’s the voice that I use now. Finding my old voice was … it was hard emotionally, but it surprised me how hard it was physically, as well.”

How being real helps you play pretend

Arna Magnea’s work on screen extends much further back then her coming out as trans, and one of the more intriguing points she raises is how coming out helped improve her acting ability.

“After I came out, and, and stopped pretending to be something I wasn’t, acting became easier,” she explains. “Because before, I was already acting, pretending to be something I wasn’t, then when I got a role, I was kind of acting on top of acting, if that makes sense. And now, I’m just me. And when I’m acting, I’m only kind of doing one role. And it’s so much easier, more enjoyable, and more fun. That’s what people don’t get when you come out. Regardless of all the hate and the bullshit and all that stuff. Coming out, it’s like taking the mountain off your shoulders, and you become so much lighter and freer. And then you start to get opportunities you didn’t get before, when you were closed off to the world.”

Arna will soon be starring in a major acting role in the upcoming movie Ljósvíkingar.

It’s never too late to come out. It’s never too late to be free. Because this freedom of being yourself, it’s worth anything. I mean, it’s worth dying for, it’s worth living for.

A later awakening

There is a trend in the trans community that most trans femmes will come out within a window from late teens to late twenties. While there is some truth to that which has been explored endlessly in other articles and books, some trans people will come out much earlier or much later in life for a variety of reasons. For Gen Xers such as Arna Magnea (and, in full disclosure, the author of this article), it has a lot to do with a lack of vocabulary, let alone information, to describe what we were experiencing at key moments in our youth, often coming across this information much later and provoking our own eureka moments.

Having already been out as bisexual, and then pansexual, that moment for Arna Magnea stemmed from an article she saw in Metro while riding the bus.

“It was such a small article,” she recalls. “And I’m not quite sure if I remember it correctly. But yes, this word: for the first time I heard this word transgender. Aand, and the way [the article subject] was describing her feelings and I when I just read like, Oh my God, Jesus Christ, this is me. This is me and it was just like an eye opener.”

And so, at the age of 32, she came out. For the first time.

Out then in then out again

Some people who began to transition may later choose to “detransition”. Very seldomly, this is because they realised they are in fact cis; more often than not, it is due to social pressures they face after coming out that compel them to go back in the closet. The latter was the case for Arna Magnea who, after suffering a traumatic sexual assault, was told by the mother of her child that if she wanted to see her child again, she would need to “man up, basically”, and move to Finland with her.

While this relationship did not last long, she later found love and got married to someone else, and although she was happy, the truth about who she was still simmered below the surface.

“I was struggling throughout our entire marriage because I was struggling between my desire to tell her the truth and fear of what would happen when I would tell her that I was struggling,” she says. “And eventually the only choice that I had left was either to die or in an accident so she could have the memory of her husband, or to live as myself.”

Ultimately, she made the choice to be herself, and says today she has a wonderful relationship both with her ex wife and her now three sons.

“This is my first lead role in a major film, and I’m really excited about this” says Arna Magnea. Photo / Sadie Cornette Cook

Be the woman you are; not the woman you would have been

It should go without saying that there is never a bad time to come out, but does Arna Magnea have any other advice for someone of advanced age who is considering doing so?

“My advice is, don’t try to become the 23 year old woman that you were not allowed to be,” she says. “And show yourself kindness. I struggled with this, but try to embrace the woman you are; the middle aged woman that you are today. It’s never too late to come out. It’s never too late to be free. Because this freedom of being yourself, it’s worth anything. I mean, it’s worth dying for, it’s worth living for.”

Even though I lost a lot by coming out, I also gained a lot: myself.

She continues: “When I was pretending to be something that I wasn’t, even though I was in a very happy and good marriage, and in a good job, I had everything. But I wasn’t me. And I was miserable and not being me. Even though I lost a lot by coming out, I also gained a lot: myself. And that is something that is so precious; to actually find your way home to yourself, to land in your own being. And that is something that no one that isn’t trans truly understands.”

Shooting for Ljósvíkingar begins this autumn, and is set to be released in late 2024. In the meantime, you can catch her in the Menningarfélag Akureyrar production of And Björk Of Course, the tickets for which are on sale now.

Á. Óskarsson
Á. Óskarsson

Á. Óskarsson offers a variety of products and services to sports centers, swimming pools, schools, kindergartens, and the general public. The company specializes in sport-related products, activity-focused games, and a wide range of solutions for sports facilities.

Á. Óskarsson has been involved in numerous big projects related to building sports facilities and has made it their benchmark to offer good quality products and equipment since the company was founded.

See links to social media in the upper left-hand corner


Á. Óskarsson selur fjölbreytt vöruúrval fyrir íþróttahús, sundlaugar, skóla og leikskóla og einnig ýmsar vörur til einkaafnota. Fyrirtækið selur vörur til íþróttaiðkunnar og leikja ásamt því að bjóða upp á ýmsar lausnir fyrir íþróttamannvirki.

Á. Óskarsson hefur komið að fjölda stórra verkefna við byggingu íþróttamannvirkja og hefur frá stofnun kappkostað að bjóða vandaðar og endingargóðar vörur.

Tenglar á samfélagsmiðla eru í efra horninu vinstra megin.



    Blush was founded in 2011 when it started selling high quality sex products. The goal from the beginning was to change the market and take the discussion about sex products to a higher level. Today Blush provides professional services in a pleasant environment that fulfills different needs, both for individuals and couples. Blush respects diversity and wants to set a good example in all of its messaging to target audiences. Sexual health and equality in sex is important and Blush wants to focus on those issues through education and open discussion. Blush works in a socially responsible manner for society, their customers and the environment.

    Check out Blush’s website:

    Omnom Chocolate
    - award-winning chocolate maker

      Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

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      In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

      At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.




        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

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        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater
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        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        The Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        - leading financial institution

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

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        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        - get inspired

        Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

        Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

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        VSÓ Ráðgjöf


          VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

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          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

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