Illustration: Katarina Lernmark
10 Swedish superwomen
Queen of butterfly swimming Sarah Sjöström is one of 10 talented Swedish ‘superwomen’ to watch. Others win Academy Awards, build robots and save the world with algae. Which superhero gets your vote?
Alicia Vikander clutches her Oscar statuette at the Academy Award ceremony on 28 February 2016.
Photo: Paul Buck/EPA/TT
Alicia Vikander – ‘Fatale’
Alicia Vikander is one of Sweden’s busiest up-and-coming film stars – and she has already won her first Academy Award, for Supporting Actress in The Danish Girl. This femme fatale is the first Swedish actress to win an Academy Award since Ingrid Bergman in 1974.
Appearing in seven major movie roles during 2015, Vikander came to international recognition in movies such as Anna Karenina, Testament of Youth and Ex Machina. Interestingly, this Academy Award winner was rejected from acting school five times. But her persistence paid off.
‘I do work very hard. I have been very coloured by my early ballet education. I spent six days a week, seven hours a day training. That will always be the foundation of my work.’
Read more about Swedish film in the Swedish film fact sheet.
Babba Canales seems to like it in the driving seat.
Photo: Fabian Wester
Babba Canales – ‘Uberwoman’
When taxi challenger Uber wanted to expand its business to Stockholm, they turned to 22-year-old Barbara, ‘Babba’, Canales Rivera to kick off and market the company’s upstart car service. Under the vision and management of the super-talented Canales and two colleagues, Uber Sweden AB showed a turnover of SEK 8.9 million in 2014, with a profit of approximately 0.7 million.
As a 24-year-old, this ‘Uberwoman’ moved to New York, where she is now the marketing manager for the company’s NYC office. Focusing on building partnerships and collaborations in the fashion, art and music industries, one of her biggest scores in 2015 was working with American fashion brand Rag and Bone during New York Fashion Week. For Canales, it’s all about showing the beauty of the private driver experience.
Lisa Jonsson – ‘Misslisibell’
Fourteen-year-old blogger and YouTube sensation Lisa Jonsson has taken the internet by storm, discussing makeup tips, beauty products and fashion advice. ‘Misslisibell’ launched her own YouTube channel in 2012, which has attracted nearly 175 million views and 360,000 subscribers at the time of writing.
‘Before, there were no makeup videos in Sweden of girls my age. There were only adults in the US who did makeup videos … so I got many viewers,’ Jonsson tells Swedish daily GP.
Not without debate, Jonsson has had her fair share of critics and has dealt with a lot of controversy by pulling in millions in products and advertising from cosmetic giants, who want her to be their brand ambassador. Despite the sometimes nasty commentary, Jonasson chooses to continue on with her passion, inspiring young girls.
Nikeisha Andersson shooting a video in central Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Funck/DN/TT
Nikeisha Andersson – ‘Creatrix’
Collaborating with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, Nikeisha Andersson began her career at age 16. After working at Sony Music for two years, Andersson started her own video production company, Nikeisha Andersson Film.
Andersson had a tough start in life. She was frequently bullied in school and endured more than her fair share of tragic life events. Andersson found peace watching TV and grew curious about the technological process that enabled her to laugh and find escape from heartache. ‘Creatrix’ began her journey into filmmaking.
Andersson’s video production company has an impressive client list, which includes Swedish musicians such as Zara Larsson and Avicii; international musicians like Dubvision & Firebeatz and Kid Massive; and industry producers like Warner Music and Universal Music.
On the very first day of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Sarah Sjöström wins the 100 metre butterfly semifinals and sets a new Olympic record.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
Sarah Sjöström – ‘Miss Butterfly’
Five-time World Champion and multiple world record holder, Sarah Sjöström is focused on speed. She is one of the fastest freestyle and butterfly swimmers in the world. While a major contender in backstroke and freestyle racing, Sjöström is most known for her butterfly. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ‘Miss Butterfly’ won the gold medal in the 100 meter butterfly, while setting a new world record.
‘The competition will be tough, but I’ll try to swim my fastest time ever,’ she told Swedish daily Expressen before the Olympics. Well, she sure did.
Sjöström won her first international gold medal in the 100 metre butterfly in 2008 and broke the Swedish national records at the European Championships at the age of 14. Winning numerous honours, championships and awards, she earned the title of Best Female Swimmer in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Read more about Swedish sports stars in 20 Swedish superstars in sports.
Simone Giertz – ‘Robotica’
Simone Giertz is a professional robotics enthusiast and self-proclaimed maker of ‘really crummy robots’. Some of her inventions include a robotic toothbrushing helmet (which appears also to brush your face), an alarm clock that slaps you awake with a rubber hand and a robot that pours your breakfast cereal and milk making a huge mess in the process.
She found her calling at age eight, when she created her very first robot consisting of a block of wood and a stick. She got her first Arduino robotic starter kit in 2013 and threw herself into learning all she could about programming and hardware.
‘Robotica’ then landed a job as an in-house maker at a company that makes an Arduino board. Today Giertz freelances as a creative technologist. She uses humour to inspire people to learn more about electronics – and it works. Her YouTube channel has more than 7 million views and 110,000 subscribers at the time of writing.
Sofie Allert – ‘Algaetor’
The Swedish Algae Factory was founded by Sofie Allert around the idea that a certain group of algae, known as diatoms, hold unique traits allowing them to grow in low temperatures and with low light levels. Endeavouring to produce raw materials for biofuels and reduce global warming, it is Allert’s dream to have a hundred factories by 2030.
The then 24-year-old CEO was named winner of the 2014 Green Mentorship Award by Skype billionaire Niklas Zennström, in which Allert was awarded SEK 1 million. ‘Algaetor’ received additional funding of SEK 3 million from Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova to further develop her vision.
The Swedish Algae Factory already has customers interested in water purification using diatoms, and a major oil refinery has expressed interest in the project.
Suad Ali – ‘Opinionatrix’
Social commentator and Swedish Migration Agency expert, Suad Ali works to break down stereotypes surrounding refugees and promote their integration into Swedish society. She began her career in 2011, while still in school, working with Operation Day’s Work during the famine in the Horn of Africa.
In 2012 she joined the Swedish Migration Agency and became development manager, focusing on strengthening Sweden’s reception of quota refugees. Since then, she has travelled extensively to refugee camps around the world preparing people for their move to Sweden.
In the international arena, she has worked with UNHCR representing Sweden at the 2012 One Young World, the world’s largest forum for young leaders. Holding a BA in Political Science from Linköping University, Suad Ali is also a new columnist for Sweden’s largest leadership magazine, Chef (see video above, in Swedish).
Since this picture was taken, Crown Princess Victoria has given birth to her second child, Prince Oscar. To her right is Prince Daniel, her husband.
Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
Victoria – ‘Crown Princess’ (no, wait, she is actually Crown Princess)
Crown princess and heir apparent, Victoria Ingrid Alice Désirée is the eldest child of Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf. The popularity of the crown princess has, in no small part, contributed to a renewed love affair with the Swedish monarchy, which saw a rebound in 2014 to 70 per cent of Swedes supporting the monarchy from a low of 46 per cent in 1996. Her fairy-tale wedding to Daniel Westling in 2010 was widely followed by the people of Sweden, international press and around the world.
Having studied geology, history and international relations, Crown Princess Victoria now travels extensively, maintaining a vast agenda of royal duties representing Sweden abroad and at home, visiting with foreign dignitaries as well as attending official events and openings. She also finds the time to be a mum to Princess Estelle, born on 23 February 2012, and Prince Oscar, born on 2 March 2016.
Read more about the Swedish royal family in The Swedish monarchy fact sheet.
Zara Larsson – ‘Zinger’
Artist and blogger Zara Larsson has created an international career for herself at 18 years of age. She has attracted attention for her witty social media posts on feminism, racism and sexism. Her Instagram photo showing herself wearing a condom on her leg proved that no man is too big to suit up. The post went viral. Twice in one year Larsson was named one of Sweden’s most powerful voices and has been called a ‘feminist genius’.
But she is also a singer and songwriter who received national fame winning the 2008 talent show Talang – Sweden’s version of Got Talent. Larsson signed with TEN music in 2012, releasing her debut album Introducing in 2013. Her single ‘Uncover’ was certified platinum by Universal Music Sweden and she signed with Epic Records in the US in 2013. Her 2015 release, ‘Lush Life’ (above), was nominated for Grammis Song of the Year in Sweden. In 2015, she also released the single ‘Never Forget You’ together with British Grammy-nominated singer MNEK – it went platinum in Sweden within two weeks.
Read more about Swedish music in 8 reasons why Sweden rocks.
This list is largely based on “Sweden’s 101 supertalents of 2016”, a selection by Veckans Affärer, with a few additions.
Last updated: 17 January 2017