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Swede of the Week
Laila Bagge's homeless mobile phone flap

Laila Bagge's homeless mobile phone flap

Published: 17 Jan 2013 13:28 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Jan 2013 13:28 GMT+01:00

She’s a familiar face on Swedish television, but it was her venting blog post about a homeless man's mobile phone that caught the nation’s attention this week. Laila Bagge Wahlgren is The Local's Swede of the Week.

“Who the hell can afford a mobile phone when you’re homeless and begging on the street???,” Wahlgren wrote in a blog post on Wednesday morning, and her name hasn’t left the Swedish headlines since.

But before we look deeper into the blog that got most Swedes talking this week, let's take a quick look at exactly why people care about what Laile Bagge Wahlgren has to say.

Perhaps most known in Sweden for being on the panel of judges for the hit TV programme Idol, Wahlgren is also a singer-songwriter who once penned a tune for Canadian star Celine Dion.

Born in Lund to a Swedish mother and a Palestinian father, the 40-year-old Swede has made a career within the music and television industry, now spending most of her time as a manager and talent agent.

She was previously married to fellow Idol jury member Anders Bagge, and in 2010 married Niclas Wahlgren, the actor/artist brother of singer Pernilla Wahlgren.

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But as with many TV personalities, Wahlgren’s work away from the screen is the reason her name has been sprawled across headlines this week.

In her blog, published on a portal associated with Mama magazine, she took issue with a homeless man on Stockholm’s Kungsgatan who she spied while waiting in her car at a red light.

“Beside the car on the street was a man who was sitting with a coffee cup in front of him, praying with clasped hands for help from everyone that passed,” she wrote.

“He even had a sign that said Homeless on it!

“You can bet I was amazed when this ‘homeless’ man got out a mobile phone and answered it!!! Who the hell can afford a mobile phone when you’re homeless and begging on the street??? If you can afford a mobile phone then it’s doesn't feel very trustworthy to sit there on your knees with your hands together begging for money with a sign saying you’re homeless!”

Wahlgren even took issue with the mystery person on the other end of the phone call, on the suspicion that they were also homeless.

“I get so annoyed when I see these kind of people, you get suspicious and afraid to help the wrong ‘homeless’ people and I don’t like that feeling. Grrr…” she continued

The blog post has since been shared on Facebook 2,700 times. It might not sound like much for a TV personality, but in comparison, her previous post had only garnered one share.

SEE ALSO: Homeless people get cigarettes for Christmas

Mainstream Swedish media was quick to enter the fray, with the Aftonbladet newspaper talking to other homeless people around Stockholm about their own mobile phone habits.

“If I have a heart attack and am alone somewhere, I need a mobile phone, it’s my last lifeline,” Jouka Jokinen, who has been homeless in the Swedish capital for over 25 years, told the paper.

Jokinen said his mobile was "as important as food" and that much of the money he gets through begging goes toward purchasing credit for the pay-as-you-go phone.

“She’s welcome to come down here and see how we live. She can have my mobile number if she wants,” another homeless man, Mikael, chimed in, explaining he paid 200 kronor ($30) for his mobile.

Celebrity handyman Aders Öfvergård, who worked with homeless people in Kanal 5’s ”Nybyggarna” programme, also slammed Bagge over her comments.

“I was really damn angry at what she said. It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. She’s talking irresponsibly about a person she doesn’t even know, who clearly has it much tougher than her,” he told the paper.

However, controversial celebrity blogger Katrin Zytomierska came to Bagge's defence in a post published on Wednesday.

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"If you don't have a home and are begging for money on the street, then you clearly can't afford a mobile phone. They're just trying to dupe us," she wrote.

But a spokeswoman for Stockholm's Stadmission, which operates homeless shelters in the capital, slammed Bagge, saying she "doesn't understand what she's saying".

"It's demeaning, ignorant and a sign that she has an outdated view of humanity," Yvonne Borg told the Nyheter24 news website.

She explained that 60 percent of homeless people in Stockholm have children and that it's common for companies to donate mobile phones or public transit passes to the homeless instead of giving money.

RELATED: A list of The Local's past Swedes of the Week

While refusing to speak to media about the incident, Wahlgren took to her blog again on Thursday to issue a public apology.

“What I wrote came across as truly unsympathetic - which was never my intention,” she wrote.

“I hope you all accept my apology and we can leave all this behind us now.”

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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Your comments about this article

15:28 January 17, 2013 by StockholmSam
Well, let's just think about this for a second. A mobile phone costs 200-350kr per month to own and operate and it serves as a very useful, sometimes life-saving tool for anyone. It is not just for playing games or arranging meet-ups at Espresso House.

A studio apartment rental costs roughly 5000-10 000 kr per month.

Certainly, I can see how a person might be able to afford a phone but not a home. Too bad this filthy wench cannot see that.
15:30 January 17, 2013 by Viking1
So, where the hell do the homeless people charge their mobile phones?
15:48 January 17, 2013 by Rishonim
Allez les manouche
16:12 January 17, 2013 by star10
Being a celebrity doesn't guarantee having a good brain. This celebrity's head (I don't even remember her name after reading the article) is full of mucus that is just stupid. It is luck that got her so much wealth and it is luck that got many people in the street. And a really stupid as*hol* like this lady can also be lucky enough to have so much wealth.
16:16 January 17, 2013 by Svensksmith
Yes, she has an outdated view of society. In this new age of entitlement, working for a living is no longer necessary. Live free off the taxpayer!
16:21 January 17, 2013 by johan rebel
Oh oh, better not say or write anything in public that offends the PC elite in this country. or the charities that need to find as many "needy" clients as possible so they can demand increased subsidies and expand their business.
16:55 January 17, 2013 by star10
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
17:10 January 17, 2013 by Hamsterdam
I've met this woman with her child. Awful mother as well as person.
17:24 January 17, 2013 by StockholmSam
So the next time I see a homeless person begging, I am going to say, "oh yeah? And what are you going to spend this money on, anyway? A kontantkort? I don't think so, bub! Here, have an orange."
17:33 January 17, 2013 by Scepticion
Old mobile phones should readily be available for free, because of the fast replacement cycles. And with a prepaid card, you can have a mobile phone for about 100 SEK per year if you don't call much.

Anyway, the story is an old hat.
18:52 January 17, 2013 by StockholmSam
We can only assume that was the fella's home phone.
00:51 January 18, 2013 by GLO
Not only do I say go girl. But she is still HOT, so she can say wht ever in my book....
08:24 January 18, 2013 by snowtiger
Sweden has homeless people? Well, shocking isn't it? So let me ask you this swedes...if you can't manage to feed and housing your own people, so why the ef are you taking in refugees by the hundreds everyday to feed and housing them? As for this beauty, she should know better, begging is in her blood!
09:07 January 18, 2013 by Cosme Fulanito
I did not read the article but.... damn She is pretty :)
09:40 January 18, 2013 by wabasha
i find nothing to shocking about what she said. i don't expect her to be an expert on the subject. but the truth is if I had a couple extra coins in my pocket it would not be given to the guy talking on the phone. have a skill, tell a joke, play some music badly or something... i guess i just expect more from beggers.
10:29 January 18, 2013 by Migga
@snowtiger

Ever wonderd about the fact that most homeless and beggers in Sweden are foreign or organized criminals?
11:53 January 18, 2013 by snowtiger
Oh I know full well they're mostly Gypsy beggers, but I wouldn't waste any chance of taking swipe at the swedes, gee I despite them.
01:08 January 19, 2013 by unhappy camper of the saints
In the USA back in the 60's you could not get welfare if you had a landline in your home.

Now the the Federal government pays for a wireless phone and the monthly fee for anybody who gets food stamps and/or other welfare payments

This includes many homeless people.

I am surprised by the anger of a Swede over this issue
06:22 January 19, 2013 by snowtiger
I have one thing in mind only...are those are real? They look just fine, very fine! Sorry about that hash comment there miss, there is nothing wrong with what you said about the gypsy begger anyway.
10:52 January 20, 2013 by skatty
I think one reason is that there are very few public phones (the classical phone boxes) in the streets. Most of the public phones are vanished from the streets and you may just find it in downtown (especially in Scandinavian countries to encourage people to by mobile phone).

For a decade ago, I realized that public phones suddenly have vanished from the streets (sometimes my mobile didn't work and I had to make emergency calls).

Even a homeless may need to call somewhere if not to receive!
10:57 January 21, 2013 by Rishonim
I see those Gypsies all over Europe assuming the same position for begging. Yet, I feel sorry for them as they came to the worst country to peddle for a coin. The weather is miserable and Swedes are extremely cheap; hence I don't think those beggars will make more than 20 Kronor on a good day.
13:07 January 21, 2013 by snowtiger
Swedes are extremely cheap? Well, they have to save money for your welfare don't they?
12:29 January 22, 2013 by Rishonim
@snowtiger. LOL. Unhesitatingly and without detracting much from your merits, I will say I that pay more taxes in one month than you and your entire household will pay in one year.
07:39 January 24, 2013 by robban70226
Here in Sweden any bubble head is a TV personality'' Nothing needed in the brains as far as they can shot tits and %ss. Dont take much f´to get the ttention of the Swedes, empty lifes looking for empty heads, no brainer
21:14 March 21, 2013 by janeway
She's a waste of air.
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