by Kristin Mayer

Betty sets the record straight. Who is Silvia Ribeiro and is she a real athlete?! 

At what age did you start modeling? What was your upbringing like? Did you like it or was it more of a "job" to you? Were you “discovered” or was this something that you sought out? 

I started modeling really late at the age of 26. I know it sounds old to start a career, specially modeling but I was in a bus coming back from college and got scouted. At first I didn’t take the scout agent too seriously and was even a little scared with the approach but after a few months I was decluttering at home and found his business card. A friend of mine actually knew him and told me he was the real deal and a famous modeling scout so I decided to give it a shot. I called him and he booked visits to 3 modeling agencies in Sao Paulo, Brazil the following week. Sao Paulo is one of the biggest modeling markets in the world and very competitive so I didn’t have any high hopes. I ended up getting chosen for the board of the very first agency we visited to my surprise and after that there was no looking back.

Have you done any other types of work besides modeling?

I left home when I was 16 to play volleyball in Sao Paulo and during that time I was still studying to get to college. I wanted to study dentistry at USP (the public State University of Sao Paulo that just got rated in 2016 as the number 1 dentistry school in the world ahead of Harvard) and it’s an incredibly competitive process to get in since it’s public/free. I worked part time jobs as sales associate for fashion stores while playing professional volleyball in order to support myself and be able to study. after getting to college I played for the university and started an internship as a Dentist as well. In the very end of college I got scouted and then after I started traveling the world I just couldn’t see myself working an office job 9 to 5 anymore. So I was glad to have chance to get an amazing education and learn a profession like dentistry but modeling took over really quick.

Ahhh…so you are beautiful and you have brains. I assume that you have always “worked out” to keep your physique for modeling but when did you get the triathlon bug and  what made you quit your professional career as a dentist, leave modeling for a while, and take a risk at becoming a professional triathlete?

I’ve always been super active since I was a child. Volleyball was my first sport and after moving to Sao Paulo and specially after I started working as a model it became clear that I’d have to find an individual activity in which I wouldn’t have to rely on others to exercise and that also allowed me to get fit in between my crazy schedule of work/travel. While I was living in NYC I started going to the gym 3-4 times a week and started doing running classes. When the weather cooperated I would go out on Central Park and I got hooked into the whole run thing. I had some friends at the time that were starting to race triathlons training mostly indoors and it sounded really fun! I though that already having the run it could be fun to add swim and bike to the equation and have some extra fun and variety. I bought my first road bike and it was love at first sight!

Does your triathlon training regime get in the way of your modeling. I don’t mean time wise. I mean you actually have muscles. Does that limit your modeling? Does the modeling industry look at you sideways because you are not stick thin with no muscle tone?

That is a great question because it goes way beyond just modeling. The fashion industry sets a standard for women that is based in basically no muscle tone. I was always very athletic long before I started modeling and specially in NYC I had some resistance from people within the industry regarding my physique. It was a very hard time for me since I had left another career behind to become a model but I decided then that I’d make the best that I could with my modeling without compromising my health and my happiness. I moved to Miami that is a completely different market more focused on body, bikini and lifestyle. I had great success and also had the chance to be more active since the weather in FL is just a dream year round. 

Did the triathlon community welcome you with open arms or was it difficult to break into training groups because of the way you look?

The triathlon community is a super competitive environment just as modeling. The thing is that there’s a lot less money in the sport than in the fashion industry for the athletes so that’s a complicated thing. When I started approaching triathlon professionally all I did was using my background as a model and also the knowledge of promoting my image and also quite a few years of experience in some of the harshest markets you can find! I’ve also partnered with some amazing people like my agent Jim Garfield which was paramount. I have definitely had some people looking sideways, especially professional athletes. I think that it’s less personal and more the fact that a lot of them have been doing this for so long that maybe they couldn’t see or understand how much the market have changed. So many athletes have amazing sports feats but don’t really know how to capitalize on that or even how to promote themselves as role models to inspire others. Triathlon is a very tight bunch and if you find a way to reach out to that community it can be really faithful to you and the brands you’re promoting. But in my opinion some pro athletes are so stuck in the swim-bike-run aspect of the game that they forget that being a professional (in any area) requires a lot more than that in order for you to be truly successful.

What did you enjoy most about training full time? What was the least enjoyable thing about it?

The greatest thing about triathlon is that I can be doing it as a job but it’s still just as fun to get out there and swim, bike and run. So I’m always having a great time training or racing. The only downside to me (specially now in the SoCal summer) are the tan lines…ha!

Now that you have seemed to have "done it all" what do the next 5 years look like for you?

I feel like I am in a really good place right now. I’ve just moved to CA and the lifestyle offers me the chance to live the life that I chose to the fullest. The modeling industry is very solid, there’s great places to train and it’s a very vibrant place in all aspects. I was never very good at planning too far in advance but I guess it’s safe to say that if I keep doing what I’m doing right now 5 years from now will look sweet!