Greta Thunberg has quickly become a household name. The teenaged climate change activist from Sweden received global attention after addressing the Secretary-General of the United Nations at the COP24 climate talks. Her impact reached the United States on Thursday when she inspired a world-wide school walkout for kids and teens to bring attention and action to climate change.
15-year-old Thunberg, who is autistic, rose to fame as a new, major player in the climate change discussion, and that sudden spotlight has come with it an international intrigue into her personal life and how she was raised. Fans of Thunberg have sought out more information about the family that raised her use her voice to make a difference, while critics have surmised that Thunberg’s actions are a direct result of her parents’ teachings.
Greta was raised by her father, Svante Thunberg, and her mother, Malena Ernman.
Here’s what you need to know about Greta Thunburg’s mother, Malena Ernman:
1. Malena Is a Swedish Opera Singer & Actress
By profession, Ernman is a mezzo-soprano opera singer and soloist.
According to her Facebook page’s bio, she studied singing at Conservatoire de Musique in Orléans, France, the University College of Opera in Stockholm, and Royal College of Music in Stockholm.
Greta’s father Svante is an actor, and Malena also has a number of professional acting credits. According to IMDb, she has appeared in a number of TV movies, and most recently had a role in an episode of the TV series The Simple Heist in 2017. He singing has also earned her spots in the soundtracks of the films The Truth About Emmanuel and The Hunter.
2. She Tried Going Vegan (at Greta’s Request) & Is a Vegetarian
It is well-known that Greta is vegan for the sake of the environment, but it was Greta who made that dietary choice and enacted it on the rest of her family, not the other way around.
In an interview with Plant Based News, Greta talked about how she went about convincing her parents to become vegan for the sake of the planet. She said it was hard to convince them to change their diets at first, because “They were like, ‘don’t worry, someone will invent something in the future – people have this under control’.” Continuing, she said “But the more I read about this, the more I realized we don’t have this under control, so then I started to become worried, and I talked to my parents about it. I kept showing them articles and graphs…and they were like everyone else…they always had excuses.”
Finally, Greta revealed how she convinced them to make a change: “But then I made them feel so guilty…I kept telling them that they were stealing our future and they cannot stand up for human rights while living that lifestyle, so then they decided to make those changes. My dad is vegan, my mom, she tries – she’s 90 percent vegan.”
Malena describes herself as a vegetarian.
3. She Authored the Memoir ‘Scenes From the Heart’
In August 2018, Malena published a memoir about her family entitled Scenes From the Heart.
On NoFlyClimateSci.org, Ernman mentions the book in her bio, describing it as “autobiography that is really a climate novel in disguise… It focuses on the wider ongoing sustainability crises.”
Malena, her husband, and her two daughters wrote a second book together, entitled Our House Is on Fire; according to Penguin Books, it will be released on May 3, 2020. In their description of the upcoming novel, they reveal “This is the story of a family led to confront a crisis they had never foreseen. Of a happy life with two young daughters which suddenly falters, never to be the same again. Aged eleven, the eldest stops eating and speaking, and her younger sister struggles to cope. Slowly, alongside diagnoses of autism and selective mutism, their desperate parents become aware of another source for their firstborn daughter’s distress: her imperilled future on a rapidly heating planet.”
4. Both of Her Children Were Diagnosed With Autism
Greta is the older sister of her only sibling, Beata. Both Greta and her sister have been diagnosed with autism and ADHD. Beata also has OCD and has been open about her experience dealing with her conditions, as well as bullying.
Following in Malena’s footsteps, Beata is also a famous singer in Sweden; her father, Svante, serves as her manager. Beata appeared on the Swedish TV show Malou and performed an original song, entitled “Bara Du Vill.”
5. She Competed in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009
10 years ago, Malena competed in Europe’s popular “Eurovision Song Contest.” According to OperaAndBallet.com, she first competed in the Swedish Melodifestivalen Eurovision Grand Prix with a written by her friend Fredrik Kempe, entitled “La Voix.” Winning the competition meant she got to represent her country of Sweden in the Eurovision competition in Moscow. Ultimately, she finished 9th overall in the semifinals, and 21st in the final.
On the singing competition’s website, how a person earns their spot in the competition is explained: “Each participating broadcaster that represents their country chooses their performer (maximum six people) and song (maximum three minutes, not released before) through a national televised selection, or through an internal selection. Each country is free to decide if they send their number-one star or the best new talent they could find.”