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How Brazilian Dancer Ingrid Silva Is Changing the World — Starting with Ballet! (Exclusive)

The ballerina, who rose from the slums of Rio to the world stage, wants to change the way we think ballerinas should look

Ingrid Silva
Ingrid Silva

Brazilian dancer Ingrid Silva knows she doesn't look like your so-called "typical" ballerina — and she's more than proud of that.

Still, she wishes some of the brands that make shoes, tights and leotards would catch up.

"I've been with Dance Theater of Harlem for a decade, and I've had to color my pointe shoes [with makeup] up until 2019," Silva says. "They only started making my skin tone in 2019."

Related: Misty Copeland Says Ballet Industry Is 'Extremely Behind' on Racial Equality, Justice

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Silva knows it's time that the world recognized that dancers can come in all shapes and sizes — and from all over the world.

"Some other brands are doing it too, not as many shades as we're hoping for, but this is what we were looking for," she explains. "My personal goal and dream is to create my own line — I love what Rihanna did with Fenty makeup, and I feel like it would be amazing to do that with point shoes."

Silva adds, "Ballet has been evolving. There is still a certain way you have to look but you see different body shapes on stage now. It's not just the European bodies from where Ballet was invented. You'll see non-binary dancers on stage now. It's a huge change, and it's really beautiful for the next generation to see that it's possible to do ballet, no matter what you look like."

<p>Noam Galai/Getty</p> Ingrid Silva attends Disney's "Percy Jackson and The Olympians" premiere at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on December 13, 2023 in New York City.

Noam Galai/Getty

Ingrid Silva attends Disney's "Percy Jackson and The Olympians" premiere at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on December 13, 2023 in New York City.

The dancer was born and raised in Rio De Janeiro. Though her family didn't have much money, her mother insisted her two children get involved in sports. "I started swimming at 3 months," Silva says. "I loved swimming. I actually joined an Olympic team in Brazil. But then ballet came around when I was 8 years old. Which is sometimes considered old. But I just fell in love with the discipline and hard work. I learned something new everyday. I felt like I was defying gravity."

Silva joined two touring companies in Brazil, but at 18 she moved to New York to join the Dance Theater of Harlem, where they spend most of the year touring around the country. She loves meeting with fans — especially young Black girls who are inspired to maybe pick up ballet after seeing her perform.

"I honestly think it's a huge responsibility to be an inspiration for them, especially because when I was growing up, I didn't feel like I see myself in the dance world, especially in Brazil," she says. "Things started to developing as I came to New York, and I saw more diversity in all senses. But I think it's really powerfu to be the person that people get inspired by every day. I have a very amazing audience who has been following my story since the beginning. So when I'm in different cities and get to meet the fans backstage, it's really beautiful."

<p>Ingrid Silva/Instagram</p> Ingrid Silva and daughter Laura

Ingrid Silva/Instagram

Ingrid Silva and daughter Laura

Silva welcomed a daughter in 2021, and was equally thrilled to be able to get back into dancing postpartum. "In the dance world, your body is judged a lot, so that puts a lot of pressure in us women all the time to be looking a certain way. But I was able to dance throughout my entire pregnancy," she says.

And she knew that the changes her body went through as she became a mother would only benefit her. "I feel like I am dancing better than ever," Silva tells PEOPLE. "I feel that my artistry when I step on stage has a different meaning. This body, it's part of an art form, but it's also a motherly place." She also loves her daughter being able to watch her perform from backstage. "It's important for her to know her mom worked. That's very empowering for girls."

Related: Serena Williams Praises 'Loving Yourself' as She Embraces Her Postpartum Body: 'Well Worth It'

Silva also helps empower women through her EmpowerHerNY initiative. "It's a woman Latina organization, but we work with women all over the world," she says. "We do panels, we connect women with brands. We bring the resources that it's needed for each one of them in whatever they aspire to be in their lives or their careers. Mental health is really important for us."

She's also discovered she has famous fans. She's starred in a short Nike film, narrated by Serena Williams, and starred in campaigns for brands like Cadillac. But the biggest thrill was learning that Alicia Keys was a fan, and being asked to star in the "She Is a King" campaign for Key's clothing line.

"We talk often," she says of Keys. "Jennifer Garner is also someone I learned was a fan. It made me realize how my story has really gained to places, and I had no idea."

She adds, "It's been amazing."

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Read the original article on People.