With over 18 million monthly listeners on Spotify, Zara Larsson is Sweden’s biggest music star right now. Photo: Jordan Rossi
10 Swedish superwomen
A pop star, a crown princess and the teen who might save the world – that’s three of the Superswedes on this list. Ten extraordinary achievers to inspire you, in alphabetical order.
Alicia Vikander – actress
Alicia Vikander clutches her Oscar statuette at the 2016 Academy Award ceremony.
Photo: Paul Buck/EPA/TT
Raider of tombs, royalty, artist, agent, humanoid robot – there doesn’t seem to be a role that Sweden’s very own movie star Alicia Vikander can’t master.
Vikander is already an Oscar winner, having bagged the Best Supporting Actress statuette in 2016 for her portrayal of artist Gerda Wegener in The Danish Girl.
‘I just think of these once-in-a-generation actresses who kind of explode onto the scene and what strikes me about her is I can’t see where her limits are,’ Matt Damon said after co-starring with her in Jason Bourne.
More recently, Vikander starred as one of four actresses portraying women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem in the biographical drama The Glorias (2020).
In 2021, Vikander can be seen as Lady / Essel in The Green Knight – a fantasy version of the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Also scheduled for release in 2021 is Netflix thriller Beckett, with Vikander and budding superstar John David Washington as a holidaying couple who get entangled in a violent conspiracy in Greece.
Production of Tomb Raider 2, with Vikander reprising her lead role, has been announced.
Greta Thunberg in New York, before speaking at the UN Climate Action summit in September 2019.
Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA/TT
Greta Thunberg – climate activist
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 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 – drone queen
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 has helped put Swedish women’s football on the map.
Photo: Simon Hastegård/Bildbyrån
Kosovare Asllani – professional footballer
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 was an influencer long before the term was coined.
Lovette Jallow – writer, lecturer, activist
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.
Swimmer Sarah Sjöström won five individual medals at the 2019 world championships in Gwangju – one gold, two silvers and two bronze.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
Sarah Sjöström – swimmer
This force of nature was only 14 when she won her first international gold medal, back in 2008 at the European Championships when she triumphed in the 100-metre butterfly. But Sarah Sjöström has proven more than a prodigy, and has dominated her sport like perhaps no other Swede over the last decade.
At the time of writing, Sjöström has won 11 World Championship titles, counting both long- and short-course events. And we dare say the count won’t stop there, if she gets back to her best. Sjöström broke her elbow in a slip accident in early 2021.
Although she’s a contender in backstroke and freestyle racing, it’s as a butterfly swimmer on 50 and 100 metres that Sjöström truly excels. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janerio, she became Sweden’s first female Olympic gold medallist swimmer by winning the 100-metre butterfly event.
For a while, Sjöström held eight world records simultaneously – a record in itself.
Crown Princess Victoria is Sweden’s committed and down-to-earth future queen.
Photo: Raphael Stecksén/Kungl Hovstaterna
Victoria – Crown Princess
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).
Zara Larsson performing ‘WOW’ at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2020, where she won Best Nordic Act.
Zara Larsson performing ‘WOW’ at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2020, where she won Best Nordic Act.
Zara Larsson – singer/songwriter
In 2015 Zara Larsson was 18 and had already created an international music career for herself. She started young, winning the 2008 talent show Talang – Sweden’s version of Got Talent – as a 10-year-old. In the mid-2010s Larsson had a string of global hits like ‘Lush Life’ and ‘Never Forget You’ – the latter featuring British Grammy-nominated singer MNEK. ‘Never Forget You’ went platinum in multiple countries, including the US.
Larsson’s music is described as R&B- and club-influenced dance pop, and she has collaborated with many big names such as French DJ David Guetta, for the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup theme ‘This One’s for You’; crossover band Clean Bandit, on ‘Symphony’ (2017); and with Norwegian DJ Kygo and American rapper Tyga, on ‘Like It Is’ (2020). Her first international release was the So Good album in 2017.
In 2018, Larsson landed on Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30 Europe’ list in the entertainment category. It remains to be seen where 2021 release Poster Girl will take her.
Last updated: 9 March 2021