Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Pop Foto, November 1976: ABBA's Agnetha: I used to be a simple country girl...

When you see ABBA’s Agnetha steal the show on television, full of confidence, it’s hard to imagine that that same Agnetha used to be a shy, withdrawn girl. A girl, that turned red at the slightest incident, that was never asked out by a guy and that thought her girlfriends were showing off when they put on a hip dress...

At least she’s honest, the now 26-year-old Agnetha Ulvaeus, mother of a 3-year-old daughter, but above all the blonde star of the world-famous group ABBA. She’s not ashamed of old pictures that are less flattering. She can even have a laugh about them, and that is very rare with artists of her standing.

“You know,” Agnetha confesses while showing us pictures from years ago, “I used to be a lump of a girl. Yes, really! You mustn’t forget that Jönköping, where I’m from, was just a small village in the country side in my childhood. And I was a country girl. The girls wore re-adjusted dresses of their older sisters, and because that was very normal, no-one dared to object. I'll tell you something else. Girls who dared to come up with something exceptional, were laughed at. Yes, by me as well! I was the worst of them all. I was very shy in those days.” While she’s telling all this, Agnetha smiles and when you watch closely, you can see her cheeks are starting to blush. “And I didn’t have the nerve to speak. Especially not to boys. It was just a disaster. I blushed and when I knew that a boy liked me, I just wanted to vanish into thin air as soon as he laid his eyes on me. I felt so unattractive in those days.”

When Agnetha was 15 years old, her singing career was starting to get serious already. With her father’s dance-band she toured the country and gained a lot of experience. “Strange really. The moment that I was on stage, the spotlights were on and I heard the music behind me, I was freed of a burden. I could be myself then. All of a sudden I couldn’t care less that all those people were staring at me. That tour was crucial for me, I just had to overcome my shyness, no matter what, because I wanted to become a singer, my mind was set on that. I’m still shy today and I like to stay at home, but I’m a singer as well and I have to show my face. During that tour I’ve learned that you might as well do it right then.”

“So there I was, with my stupid braided hair and my old-fashioned dresses and I could just hear the people whispering: “Sure, she can sing, but she isn’t much to look at!” I was crying for nights on end about remarks like that. And that’s when I decided to do something about it. I was about eighteen years old and already well-known in Sweden when I started to use make-up. Me, who used to think make-up was repulsive. And I went to Stockholm and Götenburg, just to shop for clothes, I couldn’t even dream about that when I was in my father’s revue. But it did help me. I gained more self-confidence. About one year later, I met Björn. In those old pictures you can still recognize that silly girl from Jönköping, but I’m a different person now,” according to Agnetha.
It goes to show, the self-confident Agnetha that dances across the TV-screen, wasn’t born as trendy as she is now. She’s had to fight hard, not least against herself. Just like so many other girls, she felt like an ugly duck and could lay awake for nights over one bad remark. When she was sixteen years old, she was just as vulnerable and sensitive like you and me, and on top of that she was in the limelight as a singer. Jealous of her success, other singers were spreading dreadful stories about her. But still, no matter how many tears and sleepless nights it has cost Agnetha, she did something about it. And now she’s just very happy about that!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

1976 was arguably Abba's biggest year, and 26 year old Agnetha was the group's hottest star, "stealing the show" as this article shows. When the reality of just how far she'd come hits you, it only makes her even more impressive.

Check out pics here:


for a taste of just how she really did look back then.