How One NYC Woman Is Inspiring Confidence In Girls Through Dance & Mentorship

Sponsored By e.l.f. Cosmetics

By Kaleigh Fasanella

When Gabriella Cabrera started dancing at a young age, she didn’t expect it to evolve into a path of leadership and role modeling. Once you experience the impact of mentorship, though, it’s hard to give it up. “I’ve been dancing my whole life, but it wasn’t until I joined an official dance studio at 19 that I realized it was my passion,” says Cabrera. “Then I started [working] at Girls Inc. of NYC as an intern, and I’ve never really looked back.”

For anyone unfamiliar, Girls Inc. is a network that strives to empower girls and young women through advocacy, guidance, and mentorship. And this year, in honor of International Women’s Day, we've teamed up with e.l.f. Cosmetics to spotlight their partnership with the non-profit. e.l.f. — which stands for every eye, lip, and face — is showing its support of Girls Inc. by donating to the organization and giving a platform to Cabrera’s inspiring story of women supporting women.

Cabrera's first exposure to the power of self-confidence came from dance. “I’ve done everything from ballet to jazz, but the bachata and salsa are definitely what I love doing the most,” she says. “Since I’m Hispanic — half Puerto Rican and half Dominican — it’s what I really resonate with culture-wise. There’s just no comparison to the way the upbeat music makes me feel. I become someone else.” Makeup also plays a huge role in Cabrera’s dance attitude. “I feel strong and especially fierce when I have my full face on,” she says. “[It] just adds that extra boldness.”

Cabrera, now 27, uses her role as a dance teacher to give others that same sense of self-assuredness and to bring out their inner beauty. “Beauty to me is…the kind of person you are and the acceptance of yourself,” she says. Encouraging that and “being a role model to [my students], there’s just nothing more important than that.”

As for Cabrera’s impact, it’s all about making girls feel seen. “I wish I had something like Girls Inc. of NYC when I was growing up in the Bronx, because it’s such a positive experience,” she says. “Before or after class, we’ll do what we call ‘girl talk,’ and I’ll ask them to share whatever they feel comfortable talking about that day. Sometimes it gets really deep, you know? They’ll talk about living in broken homes or not feeling good enough. I want them to leave our discussions knowing that women can do anything they set their minds to, that they can do anything men can do, and more. I’m all about equality.”

Fittingly, the theme for International Women’s Day this year is #EachforEqual, and e.l.f. Cosmetics is showing its support with #elfforequal: For every one of their lip products sold now through March 6 on, they’ll donate the value to Girls Inc. Now that’s a cause worth shopping for.

Cabrera is wearing: Flawless Finish Foundation in Sand, Ultra Precise Brow Pencil in Deep Brown, Bite Size Eyeshadow in Pumpkin Pie and Rose Water, Primer-Infused Blush in Always Rosy, SRSLY Satin Lipstick in Nectar, and Tinted Lip Oil in Nude Kiss, all by e.l.f. Cosmetics.

This post is sponsored by e.l.f. Cosmetics.

Photography: Lauren Perlstein; Makeup & Hair: Pepper B.; Art Direction: Molly Kugelmann/BDG; Branded Beauty Lead: Lexi Novak/BDG; Production: Nancy Valev/BDG