photo: Courtesy of Dascha Polanco

Dascha Polanco is a woman who clearly knows what she wants in love.

“I want romance, gifts, and sex,” the Orange Is the New Black star said. “Ultimately, I’m in love with love." 

On the hit Netflix series she plays Dayanara, a woman often struggling to understand the dynamic of her relationships. But in real life, Polanco is secure in her needs.

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“Women can have as much as they want, and that’s the bottom line,” she adds.

While fame has added a curveball to her dating life, there’s another reason she doesn’t feel she can truly move forward with romance.

“I still love my ex fiancé,” she says without further detailing his identity. “I will always love him. But I’m focused on my career.”

Like with anyone reeling from the pain of a broken heart, staying busy with work can be quite beneficial. She’s found success through that focus by landing a role as Jennifer Lawrence’s best friend in the David O. Russell–directed star-studded movie Joy, which reunites J.Law with Bradley Cooper and also features Robert De Niro.

“It’s about the woman that invented the Miracle Mop. How she went from nothing to making something big,” she describes of Lawrence’s starring role as Joy Mangano. “Those stories are always close to the heart for me and for David as well. He loves to hear stories of self-made success.”

photo: Courtesy of Dascha Polanco

The part was a big one to get for Polanco after receiving discriminatory feedback from a casting director shortly before Russell hired her. 

“Last year, I auditioned for a role with a the casting director with over 30 years of experience who said I was too urban to play a Harvard student,” she recalls. 

When Russell later gave Polanco the opportunity to be in his movie, she thought, "Maybe I’m too urban for a guest appearance on a little show, but I guess I’m fine to be in a spectacular movie.”

photo: Courtesy of Dascha Polanco

Polanco says she continues to face challenges in her career, but that only proves to her that this is all a progression — as is the struggle for many women of color in Hollywood. Take Viola Davis’s inspiring Emmys speech in which she quoted Harriet Tubman to show how relevant the humanitarian’s words still are today. 

“I consider myself an Afro-Latina. I have African, European, and Taino roots,” Polanco says. “So for me to walk around and not embrace that I am a black woman would be ignorant. Latinas and black women have to unite.”

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As a united front she says more roles could open up for women of color that weren’t accessible before and points to her own versatility in acting. 

“I can be anything. I can be a Southern bell if you need me to,” she says in her best Southern accent.

In order to combat discrimination in the industry, women of color, both black and Latina, need to truly come together. After all, for Polanco it’s one in the same.