This Scandinavian beauty is called the Viking Barbie because she is tall, statuesque, and glamorous – but tough. She has an incredible strength within, fueled by shoving boundaries and smashing expectations with a sledgehammer; but, most importantly, tenderly loving the woman she has become.
The two-time Playboy cover model, who says she will “always be a Texas girl at heart” has been focusing on her music career, with an upcoming EP and releases with Kéta, Tech N9ne, and Crooked I, Viking Barbie says, “It's gonna be a game changer for a lot of things, because nowadays, especially mainstream stuff, sounds so much the same.”
The daughter of wrestler/ bodybuilder/ bull rider/ Bane in the 97’ Batman and Robin, Robert, Alexander Swenson Jr., and former exotic dancer and model, Erin Hillsman, Viking Barbie says, “Growing up and being around that lifestyle, I had to grow up really fast.”
Seeing her parents achieve their goals in so many different fields, Viking Barbie’s horizons were broadened.
“I joke that I have a God complex,” she says. “I think I inherited it from my father because he didn't have a ceiling to his life. There was no, ’I can't do this.’ He knew he could be everything. A lot of people feel afraid, or they don't feel like they can do what they want because they think, ‘Well, I was a criminal,’ or ‘I was in jail, so I won’t be able to do this or that.’ He just didn't do that.”
Viking Barbie says that her parents were a big part of her drive and work ethic. Also coming from her own past criminal lifestyle, she unapologetically doesn’t give a fuck when it comes to not letting anyone stand in her way.
“When my dad came out to act in California, everyone told him it was a pipe dream, and he was like, ‘Alright, we’ll see.’ And sure enough, we're walking the Red Carpet and all that within a few years,” she said. “So now, with being a hip-hop artist, although I've been in the industry that kind of peddled sexuality, and people were like, ‘You can't do that. People aren't going to take you seriously.’ I was kinda like, ‘Yeah, well, fuck you. I’m doing it.’”
Achieving self acceptance and self love didn’t come without its hard work. Viking Barbie has been sober for eight years. “I think going through the addiction thing and having to kick heroin and having to be in a jail cell, naked, cold on the floor, there's a certain amount of something you get out of that. I don't know, like I could do anything,” she said.
On her inner strength, she says, “I've got the crazies and mental illness stuff, which I embrace, and embrace all my attributes, but with the inner power, I've always had it because I've had to have it.”
Viking Barbie is dedicated to helping others on their sobriety journey, and owns a recovery home in Huntington Beach called the Viking House, for transitional living for men.
“I really love to be able to give back and help people in their sobriety because it was so freely given to me. I basically just came from nothing,” Viking Barbie said. “I ended up running away from home and living on the streets. I’ve been locked up and I’ve had a very long drug addiction. To be able to help people in a similar situation is really rewarding.”
She feels equipped to help those struggling with addiction, from her own experience in rehab.
“When I went to rehab, people were coming in off the street that were homeless, toothless; they're peeling their clothes off because they urinated on themselves,” she said. “The people you thought were throwaways are now pillars in the community and sponsoring other people.”
She adds, “I think one of the things that I always hear when people are talking about those with addictions in their life, they like to say things like, ‘Oh, they’re too far gone,’ or ‘That person will never get sober.’ And that’s just not true.”
Viking Barbie believes “It’s about changing everything you believed in to a degree.” To her, this is because “in that mindset you believe that drugs are your identity, and that lifestyle of crime is your identity, as well as whoever you're around.”
Coming so far, Viking Barbie still calls herself the “All American Dirtbag.”
“I say it lovingly, but I earned that title. I was about the worst they get,” she said. “But, I changed everything, from the people I was around, a lot of my beliefs and thoughts, and just about what the world is supposed to be. I think that's what it takes to get clean and stay clean.”
Focused on her goal, she channeled her addiction into positive things, like creating music and work, as well as just “going forward.”
“For some reason when I have a really positive outlook and I just keep doing the right things and taking the right steps, everything in the universe just unfolds my way. It just works,” she said. “The universe knows positive energy, and it's just expands and blooms for you. I think if you’re not growing and being positive, you aren’t adding to the bottom line.”
“Viking Barbie” – “one thing that's so strong and so powerful, and something that's so feminine” – fits Kayleigh Swenson well, because of the dichotomy it serves. This split is something she has embraced, and navigated, her whole life.
“Duality defines me. I'm everything. I go from this egomaniac with the mental illness stuff, but I’ve also got this very affectionate loving side,” she said. “I'm all over the map with it.”
She calls this “egomania” her Great and Powerful Oz, “because on the outside I have strength and power and I could do anything, and on the inside sometimes I'm just like this little old man behind the curtain.”
The “mental illness stuff” she is referring to, is her borderline personality disorder. Doing a lot of writing in rehab, she wanted all aspects of her music to creatively reflect the duality that comes with this diagnosis. Specifically with the EP she’s working on, Borderline.
“Part of the attributes or symptoms of that disorder are that you're very up and down, very black and white. There's a lot of different emotions,” she said. “You love someone a lot one minute, and want to kill them the next. It’s very crazy rollercoaster.” she said.
Connecting with friend and songwriter, Kéta Kuns, they worked with producer Chase Green, for singles “Basic” and “Lies.”
“Kéta is so good at putting things I want to say into a song. Since I’ve always written poetry it was this great writing team, where we were able to collaborate with one another. For some reason when we bounce shit off each other, it just works. She's extremely talented, he’s extremely talented,” Viking Barbie said. “Chase became like a brother to me. He is able to basically take my personality and put it into beats. It’s kind of creepy and weird, because I’m a very up-and-down person."
With upcoming releases with Crooked I (“My Heart Belongs To Daddy”) and Tech N9ne (“All The Way To The Bank”), Viking Barbie says, “There’s so much music to put out we can’t put it out fast enough.”
She recently dropped “Blow Ya Mind (Succubus),” which is her testament to female sexual empowerment.
“Women are powerful in a lot of ways, but we have a sexual power that is just incredible,” Viking Barbie said. “A lot of women are afraid to tap into it, or maybe they're uncomfortable tapping into it, but I feel like this song is for those bad bitches that have tapped into that shit.”
Besides her music, Viking Barbie’s skin also serves as a canvas that illustrates the duality that centers her. Both sleeves, tattooed by Sergio Sanchez, represent the Seven Deadly Sins.
“We came up with loose interpretation of each one: my inner right forearm is wrath, the outer is vanity; the inner upper arm is gluttony, the outer is lust,” Viking Barbie said. “As much as I don’t agree with the hard-written Christian rules, I just love great Epics. My issues with excess and obsession was something that I've struggled with in addiction, mental health, and everything. This is why I wanted a reminder on my arms.”
With a ‘Daddy’ tattoo on her for her father, Viking Barbie doesn’t have many lettering ink. “My dude always jokes, ‘The crazier the girl, the more words she has tattooed on them.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I'm not going to be telling everybody how crazy I am.’”