HOW SWEDE IT IS
Ulrika Ericsson is a viking maiden who has discovered america
At home when the wind blew from the east, she could wake up and smell the coffee. The aroma didn't come from the kitchen, though. It came from the Gevalia coffee factory on the seafront of the Swedish town of Gavle (which sounds like Javla), birthplace and hometown of Ulrika Ericsson. Ulrika's parents and younger sister still live there. Her father is a paramedic, her mother runs a day care center and sister Pernilla is at school studying to be a makeup artist. When Ulrika was younger the family traveled across North America, staying in Winnipeg with her pro-hockey-player uncle, Willy Lindstrom, while his NHL team, the Edmonton Oilers, won the Stanley Cup for the second year running. But what Ulrika remembers more vividly are Memphis and Graceland -- "that was before they allowed visitors inside the house," she says -- and Disneyland and Hawaii. Now she lives in Florida, across the street from the beach in Fort Lauderdale. There, early risers may find Miss November in-line skating with her dog, Casper, who is part greyhound, part Border collie. "We take turns being in front," she says. "Casper's a very competitive dog. It's in his genes. He doesn't like to fall behind, so I sometimes let him tow me to keep him happy."
Swedes have a reputation for forthright common sense and a taste for ancestral nostalgia, and Ulrika is no exception. As a sportswear and swimwear model she has all the work she can handle, and she loves her career in front of the cameras. "You're always meeting new people in this job, and you never stop learning. It gives me freedom and lets me travel, and for now that's what I need," she says in her matter-of-fact Swedish manner. "But one day I'll have to try something else. A new challenge. The Vikings understood that good looks don't last forever. Their idea of success was to die young, go to Valhalla and fight with the gods against the giants." She laughs. "That's not my plan, far from it, though I have always loved reading about Viking mythology. When I was a kid my friends would be out playing and I'd stay in our backyard on a blanket in the sun with a pile of books. It probably sounds as if I was a dreamy loner, but that was my idea of happiness -- reading about Odin and Thor, having fantasies of living in an old castle long ago. If we could travel through time, that's where you would have found me, somewhere back in the 11th century." In the 20th century, Ulrika has a different kind of fairy tale: "to live on a farm, some old place deep in the countryside with horses and dogs, and someone I love -- to make everything perfect." Until that time it's hard work and daily exercise, with music for inspiration: Stone Temple Pilots and Metallica to stretch the muscles, Vivaldi and the chants of Tibetan monks for relaxation. Ulrika skates most days, plays squash and lifts weights. Is it worth the effort? Did the Vikings have horns on their helmets?
-- Reg Potterton
Photography by Arny Freytag