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Greta Thunberg's sister launches singing career

Heike Mund sh
February 18, 2020

Beata Ernman, younger sister of famous climate activist Greta Thunberg, has announced that she will perform in a Stockholm musical alongside her mother this fall. The sisters hail from a talented family of performers.

Beata Ernman (Schwester von Greta Thunberg) im Konzert
Image: Imago Images/TT/Aftonbladet/P. Ulf

News about the climate activist Greta Thunberg is certainly nothing new on the international media scene, but rarely does one hear about her younger sister, Beata Ernman.

That may be about to change as Ernman, who is three years Thunberg's junior, begins a singing career. This fall she will take the role of the young Edith Piaf in a musical, appearing on stage with her mother, Malena Ernman, in Stockholm. Ernman is a well-known opera singer who represented Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009 with her opera-infused song "La Voix" (The Voice).

A shared history

Beata Ernman and Thunberg, who took her father's last name, have a lot in common despite their age difference. They share not only a love of dogs and a family commitment to environmental protection, but also childhoods marked by mental illness.

Fridays For Future | Beata Ernman und Greta Thunberg
Greta and her sister Beata are three years apart in age. Here, the girls participate in a Fridays for Future marchImage: Getty Images/AFP/H. Montgomery

The 2018 biographical book about Greta Thunberg's family before she gained fame, Scenes from the Heart, describes the family's personal history, including the medical health struggles of both daughters. As their mother writes, Beata was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Asperger's syndrome, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and oppositional defiant syndrome. Yet Malena Ernman says this is not so much a "handicap" as a "superpower."

Read more: Davos braces for Trump-Greta showdown as climate change tops agenda

On September 19, 2020, the musical Forever Piaf will celebrate its premiere in Stockholm. While Beata plays the famous French singer as a young girl, her mother plays her later in life. "As long as I can remember, I have danced and sung," Beata told German news agency dpa. And she's always been a fan of the famous French chanteuse. "To be able to perform her immortal music is a dream come true," she said.

Malena Ernman at Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden in 2009
The girls' mother, Malena Ernman is an opera singer and represented Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Ilnitsky

Talented parents

That Beata should pursue a career in singing is hardly a surprise, given her parents' success on the stage.

Malena Ernman enjoyed a successful international career as a mezzo-soprano. As a child, she sang in choirs and performed in concerts before receiving professional training as a singer at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Her engagements took her to some of the world's most renowned venues in Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam and Barcelona.

The girls' father, Svante Thunberg, started his career as an actor, becoming in 1991 a member of the prestigious ensemble of the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. He later gained fame through his role in a popular Swedish television series. He also works as a screenwriter and film producer and manages his wife's concert schedule.

But these days, he's often found with his daughter Greta, accompanying her on her engagements around the world, including when she sailed across the Atlantic. In a BBC interview given in December 2019, he revealed that he was happy about her environmental commitment and that she has been able to draw both strength and fulfillment from it.

Read more: Greta Thunberg seeks to trademark her name and movement

Svante Thunberg, Vater von Greta Thunberg - Ankunft in den USA
Svante Thunberg on the yacht that brought Greta to the UN Climate Conference in the USImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Team Malizia/J. Edney

A way out

Before her climate engagement, Greta had been experiencing periods of deep depression, where at times she even refused to eat. That had been the "absolute nightmare" for him as a father, he told the BBC.

The tide turned when Greta became interested in climate protection and persuaded the whole family to adopt more climate-friendly behavior. "I did all this because I knew it was right. But I didn't do it to save the climate — I did it to save my child," Svante Thunberg said.

Greta Thunberg with her family
The family as the children were still smallImage: Imago Images/TT/P. Arvidsson

At first, he and his wife thought Greta's commitment was a rather "bad idea" because it would expose them to "all the hate of social media." However, he saw that his eldest daughter had a talent for it. Now 17, Greta is not shy about asserting her independence publicly by stating that she is neither the mouthpiece of her parents, nor that of a PR campaign or of environmentally ambitious scientists.

Meanwhile, her sister Beata is busy preparing for her stage debut. She recently released a song on Spofity: "Bara du vill" (Only if you want) has seen only moderate success since it was released but is surely just the start of a career. As her mother told the world in her book, "Every family has a heroine or a hero. Beata is our heroine."