Photos: Tobias Björkgren, Raphael Stecksén/Kungl Hovstaterna, Adrian Pehrson, John Salangsang/ Shutterstock/TT, Alba Vigaray/EPA/TT, Kuntavisuals, Stina Cryssanthander, Geir Olsen/ NTB Scanpix/TT, Simon Hastegård/ Bildbyrån
10 Swedish superwomen
An entrepreneur, a princess and the teen who might save the world – that’s three of the Superswedes on this list. Behold – 10 extraordinary achievers to inspire you!
Greta Thunberg – climate activist
Greta Thunberg in New York, before speaking at the UN Climate Action summit in September 2019.
Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA/TT
An ordinary Friday in August 2018, a 15-year-old with a protest sign was spotted sitting outside the Swedish parliament. The sign read ‘School strike for the climate’. At the time, nobody would probably have guessed that this girl alone would start a massive, global movement for the environment.
Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future movement has gone from one individual being on school strike every Friday to protest the lack of action from Swedish politicians on the climate crisis, to engaging 13 million strikers in 228 countries – to date. And from 2019 to 2020 her number of Instagram followers skyrocketed by more than 2,500 per cent (!) to 10 million.
At the UN Climate Action summit in New York in September 2019, Thunberg was urging the leaders of the world to acknowledge the facts and start acting:
‘I shouldn’t be up here’, she said. ‘I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering.’
Helena Samsioe – drone queen
Helena Samsioe realised that drones could do more good in the world. The drones of her company Globhe help the UN manage natural disasters and disease outbreaks, for example.
Photos: Tobias Björkgren and Globhe
Helena Samsioe beams of confidence, so when she says that ‘what would take four hours with a car, a drone can solve in 20 minutes’, it sounds trustworthy. Maybe that’s what makes her such a fantastic entrepreneur, together with her ability to find solutions where others only find problems.
Samsioe grew up in many different parts of the world. Her parents were doctors and brought her with them on their travels with aid organisations. This made Samsioe realise that the world doesn’t look like Sweden, which sparked an urge for problem solving.
In 2015, the entrepreneur founded Globhe, a company that uses drones to capture image data. The data is used to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks around the world. For example, during the cholera outbreak in Malawi in 2018, Globhe could inform the United Nations about how many were affected by the outbreak, which – in turn – made the UN respond more efficiently. The drones are also used to deliver blood, vaccine and medicine in many rural parts of Africa.
Samsioe has won the Skapa Award, one of Sweden’s largest innovation prizes, and is on both Europe’s and the world’s Top 50 Women in Tech lists by Forbes Magazine. In January 2020, Globhe was also awarded the Zayed Sustainability Prize for driving impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainability solutions.
Iza och Elle Cryssanthander – TikTok celebrities
Don’t know who Iza and Elle are? Ok, boomer.
Just kidding. Iza and Elle Cryssanthander are probably two of the most well-known teens in Sweden – at least if you’re a teen yourself.
Everything started in 2016, when the twins – 11 years old at the time – downloaded the Musically app and started making their own, 15-second long videos of themselves dancing. It wasn’t long until the algorithms worked in favour of the sisters. They were featured on the global front page of the app and gained huge recognition from all over the world.
Musically is now called TikTok and was the second most downloaded app in 2019, at nearly 750 million downloads worldwide. Iza and Elle are running the biggest Swedish TikTok account with over 5 million followers. The twins post a new dance video daily, were awarded the Kid’s Choice Award in 2019 and their channel is constantly growing – inspiring kids globally to express themselves through dance.
Kosovare Asllani – professional footballer
Kosovare Asllani has helped put Swedish women’s football on the map.
Photo: Simon Hastegård/Bildbyrån
Kosovare ‘Kosse’ Asllani was early in her career praised by football (that’s soccer to our American readers) coaches for her speed and technique, and she wasn’t late to prove them right at the Women’s World Cup in 2019.
The forward scored three important goals during the World Cup. One in the winning match against Chile, another one in the winning match against Thailand and a third one in the bronze match against England.
For many years, Sweden has had one of the best teams in the world when it comes to women’s football. Football is the unofficial national sport of Sweden, but the success of the women’s team has never really created a huge buzz. Winning the bronze in the 2019 World Cup made the support for the team increase dramatically and finally gave them and Asllani the recognition they truly deserve.
Being of Albanian heritage, Asllani celebrates her background with a black, double-headed eagle tattoo on her ankle – the same eagle as the one on the Albanian flag.
Lovette Jallow – influencer
Lovette Jallow was an influencer long before the term was coined.
Lovette Jallow seems undefeatable. She works inexhaustibly against racism and sexism as an influencer on social media and as a keynote speaker. She wrote and released Black Vogue: The Nuances of Beauty, which became the first European book ever about skincare and makeup for people with dark skin, and in 2017 she gathered 8,000 people in a protest against migrants being sold in Libyan slave trade.
Jallow grew up in Gambia and came to Sweden when she was 11. School was tough: Jallow had darker skin than her classmates and was bullied for it. As a 13-year-old, she stood up in class one day and held a lecture in front of her peers about why her skin was darker than the others. In other words, her activism started at an early age, and it seems like it’s also running in the family blood. Her grandmother was a minister in the Gambian government, and was deeply engaged in women’s rights, legal abortion and the accessibility of contraceptives.
Rebecca Ferguson – actress
Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson mixes life in the spotlight with moments of solitude.
Photo: John Salangsang/Shutterstock/TT
Rebecca Ferguson had her breakthrough as a 15-year-old, with the lead role in the Swedish TV show ‘New Times’ (Nya Tider). Since then she has fought bad guys together with Tom Cruise, been in outer space with Jake Gyllenhaal and made us feel good with Meryl Streep. Not to mention her interpretation of the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ in the musical film The Greatest Showman, where she faced one of her biggest fears and sang on stage of a packed opera in the role as Jenny Lind.
As an actress, Ferguson travels a lot, and lives in many places. She has a house in London, another one in Atlanta and a flat in – wait for it – Simrishamn. It may come as a surprise to some that this international acting superstar lives in a small fishing village of 6,000 inhabitants on the southern east coast of Sweden. Ferguson fell in love with the village during the recording of a film set in Simrishamn and moved there shortly afterwards. The humble actress has said that she enjoys the tempo and the anonymity of the small town – the perfect contrast to her otherwise very busy life.
Tove Alexandersson – orienteerer and ski-orienteerer
If you google ‘winning mentality’, Swedish sports genius Tove Alexandersson should come up.
Photo: Geir Olsen/NTB Scanpix/TT
Calling Tove Alexandersson an orienteerer and ski-orienteerer only is an understatement. Alexandersson is also semi-superhuman. She won her first world championship gold medal in 2011 and has since then won 21 world championships and 14 European championships. Just to name a few of the medals with her name on them.
There are many words to describe Tove Alexandersson. Unbeatable is definitely one. While trying skyrunning in 2018 – the sport of running in steep, high mountains – she became world champion there too during her second skyrunning race ever. And oh, the first race? She won that one too! These victories made her reigning world champion in three sports at the same time.
Where does Alexandersson put all her medals, you might wonder?
‘They are scattered all over the place, or half-forgotten in bags that I haven’t yet unpacked’, she said to Swedish Filter magazine.
Tove Lo – musician
With 10.8 million monthly listeers on Spotify, you could say that things are going pretty well for Swedish pop sensation Tove Lo.
Tove Lo began writing short novels and lyric poetry as a young girl. At 24 she was discovered by Swedish songwriter Max Martin and wrote hit singles like Ellie Goulding’s ‘Love me like you do’. Two years later her own artist career was a fact with the release of international hit ‘Habits (Stay High)’. Lo has been awarded a couple of Swedish Grammis Awards over the years, and was also nominated for Best Music Video at the American Grammy Awards for single ‘Glad He’s Gone’.
Lo is also an outspoken feminist. With an album title like Lady Wood and multiple songs about female sexual liberation, she sums up two things many Swedes are proud of: our great music and our powerful stance on equality.
Victoria – Crown Princess
Crown Princess Victoria is Sweden’s committed and down-to-earth future queen.
Photo: Raphael Stecksén/Kungl Hovstaterna
In the summer of 1977, a Swedish princess was born. No matter how unusual princesses are, Victoria was a highly ordinary one. Despite being King Carl XVI Gustaf’s first child, the Swedish law said that the crown only could be inherited by a male offspring. However, this was changed only a couple of years later – an amendment in 1980 stated that the eldest child, no matter the gender, will inherit the crown. This made Victoria crown princess and will, in the future, make her Sweden’s first female regent since the 1700s and the third Swedish queen in history.
Although the support for monarchy is low – less than 4 in 10 expressed their trust in the royal family in a survey from 2017 – Crown Princess Victoria is a public favourite. She is loved for being modern, open-minded, quirky and a strong advocate for children’s rights. In 1997 she founded the Crown Princess Victoria’s Fund (Kronprinsessan Victorias fond, link in Swedish), which enables children with disabilities or chronic illness to have active lifestyles. Her husband, Prince Daniel, is also engaged in questions like children’s health. The royal couple has two children: Princess Estelle (born 2012) and Prince Oscar (born 2016).
Last updated: 10 March 2020