Q&A: Silvia Silvia
Silvia Silvia’s skill with crossbows took her around the world from South America’s circus circuit to Europe, Asia, the Middle East and now Las Vegas, where she aims arrows six nights a week as a featured performer in the WOW variety show inside Rio. Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Kelemen conducted an interview with the gorgeous grandmother—who shoots up to five crossbows at a time in her act—from a healthy distance.
How did you get introduced to the crossbow?
When you grow up in a family circus, everybody’s trying to do a new act. Everybody’s trying to do the best act. The family checks on you since you are a child, seeing what you do. I was into everything. I was one of the craziest ones. They tell me I never stopped (laughs). I learned acts, and then I was sent to school because I was in boarding school. Every time I came back, when I had the three months off or holidays, I learned a new act. One of the times I came my family was doing this act where they dressed like American Indians, an act with bow and arrow. I was interested because I was very young, and I remember my mother saying, “No, no. This is too difficult. Don’t try that. You can kill somebody or hurt somebody.”
How old were you?
I think I was 9, because I remember I come back from school, and I have the holidays and I start doing this, and they were very surprised I was very good aiming at the target.
Did the family or the circus make the bows and arrows themselves?
Of course, because at that time you go to a special place to buy bow and arrow. Now you have fantastic ones, very precise. This one was just homemade (laughs). So we shoot through targets and I practiced, and I was very good. My mother was surprised because I was even better than people that already did the act. My mother said, “Wow, you have this talent.” And I said, “I like it, I like it.” I practiced for three months then I was in the act. I was the smallest one. Then they sent me back to school. After I was married—I’ve been married 46 years. It will be 47 years in October that I’ve been with my husband—I did the high wire, I did many acts.
You met your husband when you were 11 years old.
Yes, or course. In the circus (Circus Egred) of my family.
Was he in your family’s circus?
His family was in a circus in Argentina, and my family’s circus was in Colombia. Palma. His family’s circus was Palma.
What was Victor’s main act?
He did juggling always. His family did juggling. His father worked with tigers. He worked with tigers in the show, and his mother did the wire. She did a very feminine wire act, and then when he was very young he did juggling with the three of them. This is how they met my family, because one of his family members married one of my aunts. … They married, and they brought Victor’s family to our circus. Our circus was big because it had many people from all over the world, the artists, and so when they arrive at our circus they feel like they’ve made it to the biggest circus. But I was not working at that time. I was coming back from school, because my mother always had me at boarding school with the nuns.
How did you put the current act together?
I had to do a job in Spain doing this act, so I went to the factory in England because I already did some shootings. I had my crossbow, but the complete act was not made. I think this was the beginning of the ’80s. I went to a factory in England. I explained what I was going to do. I bought like 20 crossbows. We start setting everything together. We go to a big place where I practice, and I start shooting, and we set the act. We do new things, and then the people in Spain, in one place called Galas, south of Barcelona, it was for a very nice dinner show that I start for the first time doing this act. It was ’82 or ’85. I’m not sure.
How old were you at the time?
I had my first son. He was helping me in the act. He was 14.
Why did you switch from a regular bow to a crossbow?
Because they are more precise. After I finished with my family we started traveling all around the world. We decided to do it with crossbows because it’s more difficult with bows and arrows. The only thing with crossbows is it’s more dangerous because they are very powerful. At the same time, because they are more powerful they are more precise. So for me, I started working with the crossbows and it was 1000 percent better for me.
What was your first act like? What did you put together?
I was so nervous. I forgot about everything. I put together almost the same act I do now. At the beginning of my act I shoot targets. First Victor throws a balloon in the air and I catch the balloon. Then I cut the newspaper in half with one arrow and— people love it this because it’s quite difficult—I’m onstage on one side and Victor is on the other side almost more than 10 meters far from me. So in the first part of my act I do always targets, but when I first started doing my act I did maybe less difficult targets, not so complicated. That was a long time ago. Now I have the level of targets that are really difficult. I don’t do everything I can do with targets because that would be boring, so I do four targets at the beginning. Then I finish the first part of my act. I go to the second part. It’s with five crossbows. I have to put one crossbow over each one. They will set all together, the five crossbows, and I have to shoot the five crossbows where my husband is standing in another box, with paper in front of him, with five balloons, but nobody knows he’s inside the box. So I shoot through the five balloons at the same time and when we open the paper Victor is with the arrows on the outsides [of his body’s profile]. One between the legs, and each one on the sides.
Was that part of your act in the beginning?
No. In the beginning we did it with four. We didn’t shoot between legs. (Laughs)
You needed to make sure you had children first, right?
(Laughs) Of course! The funny thing is it’s so heavy, this prop with the five crossbows is so heavy that even is you take one out it’s more like … I started shooting four crossbows, so I shoot two levels on each side. It was good. I did work like this for few years until we decide “OK, now you’re strong enough, now we’re going to but the fifth one in.” This I’ve been doing for many years now. This I did on America’s Got Talent, with the five crossbows. Sometimes I hit the pants, because if it’s hanging in the middle, I hit the pants.
Does he have any scratches?
No. He has only holes in the pants and I get very upset because I have to fix them.
When did you decide to shoot an apple on your own head?
I remember I did a TV show in Spain, the first time. … It was my first TV show with the apple, and I was very young. Every time I see this show—I have it on tape—I hate myself.
Why did you start calling yourself “Silvia Silvia”?
Because I don’t want to offend my family. I was already married to my husband for many years, so when we decided if I put “Silvia Egred,” Egred is very famous in South America. And I say, “No, it is not good for my husband, because my husband and me, we are doing this act.” So we say “No.” I don’t want anyone to be offended, so I put Silvia Silvia. Since then I’m always Silvia Silvia. (Laughs)
Did you start developing your distinct sense of fashion before you became Silvia Silvia, or did develop your costuming and look while you were doing the show?
I love the glamour of the show. I always tell people, “Maybe if I don’t be so glamorous when I go onstage, people find it more difficult, my act, because I like to go onstage very sexy, very nice looking. Sometimes people don’t mix these two together, dangerous side with a nice girl doing this act. I was always like that since I was child. I like to put on so much makeup. I like to put my hair nice, and nice costumes. So I put together everything: my costumes, my presence, my act, and first of all God, for sure, because I won’t do this act without God’s help, because for me it’s No.1. I want to tell you a secret: Before I go onstage, I always say to God, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to offer you this act, this job I do today, because I feel to good knowing that I’m offering it to you.” I go onstage, I feel so companion with him, you know? He’s my friend, together with him helping me.
I noticed you cross yourself a lot.
Yes, yes. All the time. And you should see my dressing room. I have a small altar and after I finish my makeup, I pray. I pray for everybody in the show to do a good show. I pray we do a good show for everybody and to transmit God’s love, because it’s so important to show love to other people. I always think to look everybody in the face and say, “I love you and I’m very happy to be here showing what I do to you.” So this is very important to me. Without this strength given to me by God I wouldn’t be able to do it.
How did you get involved in America’s Got Talent?
It was very funny, because I finished a contract in Germany and then come back to Barcelona, and my older song the juggler, Paul Ponce, he’s one of the better jugglers, and my other son [Daniel Ponce], he’s a rock singer. He was born in Florida, in Tampa. He’s my American son. (Laughs) He’s my baby. He’s now with an American group in Spain making his new CD. He’s very excited about it. It’s amazing. Are you into rock music?
Yeah, I’d say so.
He’s very much into rock. His rock is more like Metallica, but he writes all the songs, all the lyrics. I’m very proud of both of my sons. … So my older son, the juggler, he calls me and says, “Mami, I got an offer from America to do my juggling and your crossbow.” I didn’t know it was a competition. I said, “Really?” “Yes Mami, I sent the crossbow video because they asked me about the video of the crossbow, and they ask me, ‘Who is the lady that does the crossbow?’ And I said it was my mother. And they were so interested because it was mother and son, so immediately they wanted us to come to America’s Got Talent.” When he told me it’s not a TV show, it’s a competition, I said, “Oh my God, I’m so nervous. I don’t like competitions, and then my son said, “Mami, let’s go do it just for fun.” And you know, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life because I got to know the people in America, and the audience in America is amazing. America’s Got Talent is being watched all over the world, not only in America. I was seen everywhere. I go onstage now and people come up to me and say, “You were on America’s Got Talent.” They recognize me from this TV show.
You didn’t really have a presence in America, and now you did without even really trying.
Yes, yes. And if you don’t believe me I have offers from all the talent shows all around the world because of America’s Got Talent. They’re from India, from China, from Slovakia. Every country that does the talent show, they say, “Can you come and do the talent here, we were so surprised to see you, a woman shooting.” I say, “Oh, I’m now engaged in Las Vegas.” Believe me it was amazing. It’s an amazing show. For me, for this time of my age, it’s perfect.
Do you hear from women that tell you that you inspire them?
Yes, many. In this show, the World at the Rio, I have my (true) fans. They come to see many times the show, and when I go outside to say goodbye, they say, “This is my fourth time coming to see you. You are my hero.” And I feel so nice. And also, ladies write to me on Facebook and saying things like, “How do you keep in shape? How do you do it? How you look so nice?” And I say, “I just eat well, do my workouts, and just have a nice life. I don’t smoke. I take good care of myself. It is important.
Where do you get your crossbows from?
My crossbows I have for long time now. The other ones they were lost for a long time. I had to by another ones. I have many replacements in Spain. I love my crossbows. They are always locked in the theater. The only people who touch my crossbows are my husband and me.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become an Extreme Crossbow Archer?
It’s difficult because I like danger. It’s very special to do something different than other people. … For sure I’d be doing something dangerous for my act.