When Ingrid Silva was eight years old, she began ballet training at Dançando Para Não Dançar, a social project in Rio de Janeiro's Mangueira slum in Brazil. Flash forward a decade plus later, and she's a professional ballerina with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Curious to know what it takes to make professional ballerina your official job title, we interviewed Ingrid, who's also the founder of EmpowHer New York, a digital platform for women to share their personal and career journeys. Ahead, Ingrid lends advice to aspiring ballerinas, recounts her decision to ditch perms and embrace her natural hair texture, and shares the secret to creating a French twist hairstyle on short hair. 

Job title: Professional ballet dancer

Neighborhood: Manhattan, New York

Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a professional ballerina. 

I was always involved with sports and when I was three I learned how to swim. I started ballet at the age of eight years old at Community dance studio Dançando para nao Dancar. My dream was to be a doctor, but dance came into my life afterwards. I fell in love with the art form. At the age of 13, I really decided that I could become a professional.

What’s the most difficult part about being a ballerina?

The dance itself. Ballet will always be hard, even after being professional. There are so many challenges. Being a ballerina has its amazing moments but also many moments of challenges. When you’re injured that’s when your world crumbles so you have to keep yourself occupied in order to not succumb. You have to have strong friends and a family circle that will be by your side no matter what.

You also teach a ballet Master Class to little ones. What’s your favorite part about being a role model to young girls?

I think sharing what I’ve learned has been one of my favorite moments. When teaching you can see the students growing everyday. I love to teach and see their perseverance and love for the art and the self discovery. It really motivates me to keep doing what I do.

Photo: Alex Logaiski

What advice would you give to aspiring professional dancers and ballerinas who are trying to break into the industry? 

You have to love the art form, it’s a hard journey mentally and physically. Never give up. You’re the only person that can accomplish anything. Opportunities will come by and you have to be ready. 

What’s your go-to hairstyle for a performance?

It really depends which ballet I do. Sometimes I have four hairstyles in one performance. French twist, high bun, a low bun or my hair out. And I have to make it happen in only fifteen minutes, hair and wardrobe included. 

Do you have a go-to hairstylist who’s great at cutting textured hair?

When I went natural, I did my big chop was at Miss Jessie’s. I have been using their products ever since. They also have a hair salon in SoHo where I go from time to time.

Break down your everyday hair routine for us.

I usually wake up, get in shower and then I use my Miss Jessie’s Curly Meringue and a small brush to lay my hair. Then I get it smooth with Curls Passion Fruit Curl Control Paste

What’s your favorite natural hair:

Shampoo- Beleza Natural Cachos Intensos

Conditioner- Beleza Natural Hidratacao

Treatment mask- Miss Jessies Super Sweetback Treatment 

Photo: Aaron Pegg

You shared with your followers that you finally accomplished a French twist. What’s the secret to doing a French twist on short hair?

To me it was more of practicing every time. It took me a year to get it together and sometimes it doesn't work. The secret is finding a way of twisting to the right side. I blow dry my hair to give me more length then smooth it out with the edge control.

You also shared that you decided to go au naturel. Can you tell us about the journey of embracing your natural texture. What inspired you to take the plunge?

Well coming from Brasil I’ve always permed my hair, I only knew my natural texture when I was younger and after my 20’s. In 2014 I decided to go natural. It was actually my husband’s idea for me to embrace my curls, I had an idea but didn’t imagine it would change my life. I did the big chop at Miss Jessies salon and from that day on my life has changed forever. I feel more empowered—I love my hair and it makes me feel me!

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to go au naturel?

It takes patience because the transition is the worse part of the process. Your hair is neither curly nor straight. Make sure you are certain of your decision because it will make you a new woman. It will take time as well for you to train your hair and develop new ways of taking care of it. Even finding the right products for it is journey. 

Photo: Quinn B Wharton 

Tell us the story behind your organization EmpowHer New York.

EmpowHer NY is a collaborative platform created to share stories and give a voice to real women who struggle every day to achieve their goals and inspire us to be just the way they are, unique. The idea of the project is to create a safe environment for all women to talk about their experiences, difficulties, and achievements without judgment, while always encouraging sorority and dialogue. Through our instagram profile @EmpowHer_NY, we introduce the life and routine of different EmpowerHer Woman. Our daily "takeovers" give women the creative freedom to share a bit of their day-to-day journey.

What is your definition of the modern woman?

The one that doesn't need anyones permission to be herself! 

You’re a fierce female who’s always inspiring others through daily reminders and mantras on Instagram. Who is your role model?

My mother! She's a woman who came from the farms of Brasil and moved to big city Rio de Janeiro and met my father. They had a family and raised two amazing humans, me and my brother. She guided us to be who we are today. My brother is also a dancer and model and I became a professional ballerina in New York. She has been an amazing inspiration and such strong figure, for me to never give up. Always seen my talent from day one, when I didn't even see anything happening. I’m grateful for the mother and the strong women I have in my life. 

Follow Ingrid on Instagram: @ingridsilva