Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg has become one of the most high-profile environmentalists in history, amassing a large following on her quest to address climate change. But Thunberg isn’t the only star in her family.
Her mother Malena Ernman has a claim to fame of her own: she’s a Swedish opera singer. And for Thunberg, having a celebrity for a mom only prepared her for her time in the spotlight.
“That’s one of the pros of having a famous mother,” Thunberg told The New York Times of her mom in February. “I’m quite familiar with the media and how it works.”
Ernman, 48, is one of Sweden’s well-known mezzo-sopranos, snagging spots at major European opera houses and representing Sweden at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, according to the CBC. It was there that she performed her Europop song “La Voix.”
A YouTube video of the performance has more than 2 million views. In the display, Ernman uses her opera singing chops over a pop beat as she sways in front of a group of dancers.
Other performances include “Dido’s Lament” from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and a scene from George Frideric Handel’s Agrippina. In August, the mom performed in front of about 22,000 people at the Maritime Museum in Stockholm, she said in an Instagram post then.
Ernman, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music whose husband is actor Svante Thunberg, wrote about family life before Thunberg’s fame in her 2018 book Scenes From the Heart. In the book, she writes about bringing her family along as she toured across Europe, according to DW News.
Thunberg’s passion for climate change impacted her family just as Ernman’s singing career. The young activist convinced her family to eat vegan. Ernman followed Thunberg’s lead and stopped riding in airplanes in 2016 — virtually giving up her dream of having an international performing career, according to the New Yorker.
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Like many around the world, Ernman decided to join environmental efforts thanks to Thunberg’s influence.
“I belong to the overwhelming majority who didn’t know,” Ernman wrote in a March Facebook post. “I guess I understood somewhere that something wasn’t right about the climate and the environment. But I thought it was under control. I was wrong. The only thing I’m proud of is that I listened to my children.”
While Thunberg has taken up activism, her sister, Beata Ernman, followed in their mother’s footsteps. Beata’s Instagram account is filled with clips of her singing and dancing. Ernman praised Beata in a May Facebook post, sharing an article about Beata performing on a TV show.
“Today my daughter Beata Ernman made solo debut on live TV,” she wrote. “Wish I myself been half as good as 13 year old…”