Ingrid Silva grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and moved to New York at the age of 18 to study at Dance Theatre of Harlem. Ten years later, Ingrid is now a leading member of the company and founder of EmpowHer New York, a global women’s group. Here, she shares a nightly ritual for keeping her skin in shape and the best sweat-proof makeup she uses on-stage and off…
How does your day typically start?
I get up, grab some fruit and tea, and I’m at ballet class with the company by 9 a.m. We break around 10:30 to eat something, then rehearse until 5 or 6. I’m usually home by around 7 p.m. — unless we’re performing.
What do you do to keep your energy up?
I drink a lot of water, and Gatorade is my go-to for energy. For snacks, I like bananas and Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal. So good! It’s a long day, and if we’re performing it’s a seven-day week.
Wow. I imagine your evenings are mostly about rest then?
Yes. I go home, relax, cook and hang out with my French bulldog, Frida. I do more stuff on the weekends — go for brunch or cocktails with my friends — but on weeknights, after dancing all day, I don’t have the strength to do anything else!
What do you do in terms of recovery? Do you have an evening routine?
I take a REALLY hot shower. I just got this aromatherapy shower gel from Bath & Body Works called Comfort. It smells delicious — like vanilla and patchouli. I bought a body cream and a candle in the same fragrance. If I’m in any kind of pain, I use lavender-scented epsom salts in the bath. The lavender-scented kind are my favorite. It feels like they’re sucking the pain out of your body.
Are there any performances you’re particularly proud of?
One ballet that meant a lot to me was Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven by Ulysses Dove. It’s about how nothing can separate you from the one you love — not even death. I learned that ballet shortly after my goddaughter passed away, so it was a story I felt very deeply.
What’s your haircare routine?
One product I’ve liked for a long time is Miss Jessie’s Curly Meringue. It makes my curls defined, and you don’t need any styling tools to use it — not even a comb. I can just apply it with my fingers and my curls are perfect. I also like Beleza Natural, a Brazilian brand for natural hair. They have a salon in Harlem, and I go there for a conditioning treatment whenever I have the time. But their at-home products — like shampoo and deep conditioner — work really well, too.
I imagine your skin goes through a lot, as a dancer. What do you do for skin care?
I like to let my skin breathe as much as possible. In the morning, I just wash my face and body, and put on moisturizer. I love Kiehl’s calendula cleanser. Sometimes in the shower I use Neutrogena Deep Clean Invigorating Foaming Scrub. For moisturizer, I change it up a lot, but right now I’m using Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer — the kind with SPF 15. I don’t usually wear makeup because, of course, I’m dancing all day and we sweat. Like, a lot. At night, I do like to do a face mask.
What kind of masks do you like?
Ooh, all of them! Since we’re sweating and touching each other at the studio all day, I turn to masks to keep my pores clean and open. I really like Kiehl’s aloe hydration mask for moisturizing. But my favorite masks are ‘unicorn’ masks — which look sparkly and colorful when you put them on. I like the Glow Up, Skin mask from The Crème Shop. Oh, I also just got my first foot mask! It’s so cool. I got the Peeling Foot Mask from Oh K!, a Korean beauty brand.
Do you do anything different on nights when you go out?
If I’m going out, I use Valjean Labs’ Glow facial serum, which has vitamin C, instead of my regular moisturizer. It gives you a glow, but it’s really light. For makeup, I’ve been using MAC for a while now, because they make foundation in my skin tone. I use the Studio Tech foundation in NC50, Studio Fix powder in NW45, Mineralize Skinfinish in Gold Deposit, and the Veluxe Brow Liner in Velvetstone. I also use MAC when I perform because it never comes off no matter how much I sweat.
Speaking of makeup, you’ve talked about the process of dyeing your shoes with foundation, so they match your skin. Can you tell us about that?
Yes, it’s something many dancers of color do. When Dance Theater of Harlem was founded, the director Arthur Mitchell decided the company should wear skin-colored shoes and tights. But I wear Chacott shoes, and they don’t make them in my skin color. Most brands don’t. So, I use Black Opal foundation to paint my shoes. I use their Ebony Brown shade, which makes the shoes match my skin perfectly on stage. I’d been doing this for ten years — spending almost $1,000 a year on foundation for my shoes.
Yeah! It’s a lot for a dancer! I don’t think people realized this was a thing. After I mentioned it in an interview a few years ago, suddenly brown pointe shoes were a topic of interest. The company reached out to me saying, ‘We had no idea!’ And they offered to sponsor me and send me the makeup for free. It’s such an important issue in terms of diversity in dance. Just recently, a couple brands started making brown shoes — and that’s progress, but I also feel like why did it take so long? It’s not as though there were no dancers of color, because clearly there were. Brands really need to invest in us, and do more research as well, because not every black or brown person has the same skin color. This isn’t just an issue in ballet attire, of course. It’s the whole world. It’s hard for women like me to find, say, skin-colored underwear or skin-colored tights. It’s like, ‘Um, we’re here. Hello?’
Have you seen more diversity in the dance world since you started?
Yes. Definitely. You see more dancers of color, for sure. But we still need a lot more — not just one in a company. There are so many talented dancers all over the world, looking for opportunities. The dance companies should be looking for us. If they want to build something for the next generation, they need to make something that reflects the way the world looks.
And what about that rising generation of dancers? What would you want them to know?
That it’s so important to consistently believe in yourself and find the love for what you do. Being a dancer is a full-time commitment and you have to trust yourself — and surround yourself with the right people, who will keep encouraging you. Because you’re going to hear a lot of ‘No.’ Remaining positive is key.
Thank you so much, Ingrid!
(Fourth photo by Aaron Pegg. Top photo by Erika Garrido. Second photo by Kyle Froman. Third photo by Kimberly M. Wang. Fifth photo by Ana Paula Tizzi. Eighth photo by Michelle Cadari. Ninth photo by Rachel Neville. Tenth photo by An Rong Xu. Dyeing shoe photo by An Rong Xu for the NYTimes. All other photos courtesy of Ingrid Silva.)