The European Princess with a racy past: How Sofia went from being a naked model and reality TV star to an admired Swedish royal who worked in hospitals during the pandemic
- Sweden’s Princess Sofia was a model who posed wearing only a boa constrictor
- She became royalty eight years ago today when she married Prince Carl Philip
- Read more: Princess Sofia of Sweden starts work as a healthcare assistant
It’s increasingly normal for commoners to have had a career before marrying into one of Europe’s royal families.
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands was a Wall Street banker. Queen Letizia of Spain was a broadcast journalist at ABC and CNN.
None of them, however, quite matches the colourful past of Princess Sofia of Sweden, Duchess of Värmland, who once modelled topless with only a snake wrapped around her torso to preserve her modesty.
But not even that could prevent her becoming royal in a glamorous wedding to Prince Carl Philip eight years ago today.
Princess Sofia and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden at the dinner for the Nobel Laureates at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. They married on June 13, 2015
Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden leave their wedding ceremony at the Royal Palace in 2015. The Prince’s eldest sister, Crown Princess Victoria, is heir to the throne
The Prince and Princess with their elder two sons, Prince Alexander, now six, and Prince Gabriel, five
Princess Sofia, now 38, then went on to star on a Love Island-style reality television show before moving to New York where she became a yoga teacher and studied accountancy.
When she joined the Swedish royal family in 2015, there was, as you might expect, something of a backlash.
Since then, however, she has become one of the best-loved members of the Swedish royal family, praised for working in hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sofia Hellqvist was born on December 6 1984, in the affluent enclave of Danderyd north of Stockholm to a Swedish mother, who worked in marketing, and a Danish-Swedish father who worked at the Swedish employment agency.
She was the middle one of three girls.
After finishing school, she went on to complete an arts programme at Vansbro Education Centre, modelling to earn money while she was a student in Stockholm.
Known for her piercing blue eyes and brunette hair, Sofia took part in her first modelling shoot when she was 20.
It saw her posing topless wearing a pair of camouflage print bikini bottoms, holding a live boa constrictor to preserve her modesty.
The racy photos were published in Slitz – a now discontinued men’s magazine in Sweden.
The photos were so popular it led to Sofia being crowned Miss Slitz 2004 by the readers.
She continued modelling, including somewhat less raunchy shoots for the French style magazine, La Redoute.
After finishing school, she went on to complete an arts programme at Vansbro Education Centre and started modelling to get money while she was a student in Stockholm
During the pandemic Princess Sofia undertook a three-day medical course at Sophiahemmet University College in Stockholm. This allowed her to work on the wards
Princess Sofia and Prince Carl at the Christening of Princess Adrienne, daughter of his younger sister Princess Madeleine
Following on from her modelling, Sofia was offered the opportunity to go on the Swedish reality show Paradise Hotel – a mix between Love Island and Survivor.
The show documents a group of single people living at a luxury hotel. Sofia ended up making it through to the series’ final, where she was filmed kissing American porn star Jenna Jameson.
After the show, however, she decided to leave the showbiz industry for a life in the Big Apple.
Sofia arrived in New York in 2005 to study accounting and business development at the New York Institute of English and Business.
While attending the institution in the city, she also studied yoga, where she became a qualified yoga instructor.
When she returned to Sweden, she continued her studies taking up courses at Stockholm University on global ethics, child and youth studies, and the UN Convention on the rights of the child in theory and Swedish practice. She also studied gender and international relations.
In July 2010, her relationship with Prince Carl Philip was announced by the palace.
It is not entirely known how the pair met, but it is understood Sofia crossed paths with the Prince, whose oldest sister Crown Princess Victoria is heir to the throne, in a nightclub in Stockholm.
Princess Sofia attending the Nobel Prize banquet in Stockholm City Hall in Sweden in 2018
Princess Sofia said she faced a ‘hate storm’ when her relationship with Prince Carl was first made public
Nine months after their relationship was made public, the couple moved into the Djurgården of Stockholm, where they still live in the Villa Solbacken.
After their relationship was announced, however, Sofia faced a public backlash because of her past life working as glamour model.
She has spoken openly about her struggle from life in the showbiz industry to life in the royal family, as she received an onslaught of online abuse from members of the public.
Princess Sofia told the Swedish channel TV4 in 2021: ‘I was met with an enormous hate storm from people who had opinions about me as a person, about my relationship.
‘I was surprised and it definitely affected me.
‘I didn’t understand that people had such a need to express how badly they felt about me. It was tough.
‘I don’t regret anything. All these experiences have made me the person I am.’
It was not the first time she had opened up about the public scrutiny she received.
In 2018, while speaking at the Let’s Make Love Great Again festival about bullying, she described how the media furore ‘knocked her over’.
She explained: ‘People had opinions about me and my relationship, and more. It was very tough. People had comments on everything possible, on what I do and how I look.’
‘When my relationship with Carl-Philip became public I was greeted by a huge hate storm.
‘People had opinions about me and my relationship, and more. It surprised me and knocked me over for a period of time’, she told TV4 a short time earlier.
Sofia’s engagement to Prince Carl was announced on June 27 2014, and the couple were married at the Royal Chapel on June 13 2015.
Since then she has become a valuable member of the royal family,
It is not entirely known how the pair met, but it is understood Sofia crossed paths with the Prince in a nightclub in Stockholm
Princess Sofia and Prince Carl Philip not having HRH titles would allow their children to have more freedom when they get older
Following their wedding, the newly wed royal couple set up the Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia’s Foundation.
Princess Sofia spends much of her time at the charity, which mainly focuses on issues relating to younger people being safer online and as well as having a greater understanding and respect of those with dyslexia.
The Princess devotes much of her time to the foundation, which focuses on issues relating to safer everyday online life for young people and greater respect for and understanding of people with dyslexia.
In 2016, the couples first son Prince Alexander, six, was born followed by their second son Prince Gabriel, five, in 2017 and their youngest Prince Julian.
In 2019, King Carl XVI Gustaf decided that Princess Sofia’s sons, as well as those of Prince Carl Philip’s sister Princess Madeline, will not have HRH titles.
Although they will still go by prince and princesses they will not receive taxpayer funds.
At the time of the announcement Princess Sofia and Prince Carl Philip said it would allow their children to have more freedom when they get older.
When asked by Royal Central if she had ever considered stepping back from royal life, like the Duke and Duchess of Sussex she said: ‘No. Not really. I think I have found such a fantastic balance, and I really see it as positive that I have made it through these stormy years.
In 2019, King Carl XVI Gustaf decided that the sons of Princess Sofia and Prince Carl Philip, and the sons of his sister Princess Madeline, will not have HRH titles. Pictured: The couple’s sons, Princes Alexander, Julian and Gabriel
‘It is such a huge advantage, in that we have the opportunity to stand a little in both worlds.’
During the pandemic Princess Sofia undertook a three-day medical course at Sophiahemmet University College in Stockholm, where she is an honorary chair member.
This meant she was able to assist with healthcare work and help fight the pandemic that killed 22,645 people since 2020.
Photos surfaced of her scrubbed in, posing with other staff members, who worked at the Sophiahemmet hospital.
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