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article imageReality starlet to wed prince in Swedish fairytale

By Camille Bas-Wohlert (AFP)     Jun 11, 2015 in Lifestyle

A former reality starlet, glamour model and yoga teacher will become a real-life princess in Sweden on Saturday when she marries Prince Carl Philip in a lavish Stockholm wedding.

Sofia Hellqvist, a slender and elegant brunette, is a 30-year-old commoner known for her infectious gap-toothed smile and easygoing ways.

Her fiance, 36-year-old Carl Philip, is the second child of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia and holds the title of Duke of Varmland.

He is third in line to the throne, behind his elder sister Crown Princess Victoria and her three-year-old daughter Princess Estelle.

A glamourous and openly affectionate couple equally known for their sporty lifestyle, Carl Philip and Sofia are keen to project an image of themselves as modern and open royals, and are often seen running errands in town or picking up pizza to go in Stockholm's chic neighbourhoods.

The couple are set to wed on June 13  2015
The couple are set to wed on June 13, 2015
Jonathan Nackstrand, AFP

Royal weddings in the past were "a way of building power alliances. Today they're a way of uniting the monarchy with the people and strengthening the sense of community," historian Louise Berglund told news agency TT.

The Swedish media revealed the prince's budding relationship with the former glamour model in 2010, titillated by her racy past.

Hellqvist took part in 2005 in the Swedish reality show "Paradise Hotel", where young scantily-clad men and women stay at a luxury resort and compete to be the last contestant voted off the show amid intrigue, scheming and drama.

The year before that, at age 20, she had posed topless with a boa constrictor for the men's magazine Slitz, winning its Miss Slitz title.

The Swedish media was quick to publish the photos when the couple's engagement was announced in June 2014.

At age 20  Hellqvist had posed topless with a boa constrictor for the men's magazine Slitz  win...
At age 20, Hellqvist had posed topless with a boa constrictor for the men's magazine Slitz, winning its Miss Slitz title
Claudio Bresciani, TT News Agency/AFP

While the pictures may have raised a few eyebrows, Hellqvist's colourful past hasn't led to any major controversy, nor have pictures revealing her pierced navel.

Her several tattoos, visible both in papparazzi snaps of her vacationing and boating with the prince and even in gala dresses alongside him, may however be a thornier issue within the royal court, with royal watchers hinting that the palace may have asked her to have them removed ahead of the wedding.

- 'I don't regret anything' -

"It's a shame there's still so much written about that," she told Swedish Television in a documentary about the royal family in January, referring to the racy photos.

"It was 10 years ago, I've gotten on with my life since then," she said.

Sofia Hellqvist (far left) was raised in a middle-class family in the small town of Alvdalen as the ...
Sofia Hellqvist (far left) was raised in a middle-class family in the small town of Alvdalen as the second of three daughters. She left Sweden for New York in 2005 where she studied accounting and worked as a yoga teacher and waitress
Jonas Ekstromer, TT News Agency/AFP

"I don't regret anything. All these experiences have made me the person I am. I wouldn't have made those choices today," she said, with a supportive smile from Carl Philip by her side.

Raised in a middle-class family in the small central Swedish town of Alvdalen as the second of three daughters, Sofia left Sweden for New York in 2005 where she studied accounting and worked as a yoga teacher and waitress for a while before returning to Sweden.

"I can say I have lived my life to the fullest," she said in the documentary.

In 2010, she and a friend founded the "Project Playground" charity to help disadvantaged children in South Africa, after having worked as a volunteer in several African countries.

She left her position with the organisation in March to focus on her new duties as princess, the title she will be given upon her marriage.

Contrary to her brother-in-law Chris O'Neill -- an Anglo-American businessman married to Carl Philip's sister Princess Madeleine and who often snubs royal events -- Sofia is popular among Swedes who admire her candor and commitment.

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