Dascha Polanco got her start as the soft-spoken (but sassy) inmate, Dayanara Diaz, on "Orange Is The New Black."
But it's Polanco's unapologetic, real-life confidence that *really* catapulted her to fame.
Polanco views every red carpet as an opportunity to show off her curvy frame, and she's never afraid to drop body-positive truth bombs on anyone who asks for her opinion on the current state of the fashion industry.
But while she radiates confidence and self-assurance, Polanco is the first to admit there are times she experiences those unavoidable moments of doubt.
She recently revealed to Vivala she once felt the pressure (and sometimes still feels the pressure) to hide her Afro-Latina features so she could score more roles.
Polanco told Vivala she was once told she couldn't look "too Latina" — even if she was going after a Latinx part.
“We have to be 'Fake [Latinas],'" Polanco explained. "And here’s the thing about ‘Fake Latinas' –
when you look at Latinas who are succeeding in Hollywood ... [they’re] super thin
and you really can’t tell if she’s Latina or not."
The actress said the pressure to look like a stereotypical, undistinguishable Latina used to make her feel like she had to hide her Afro-Latina features.
"My Afro-Latina, you can see it in me," she continued. "Like, look, I did one of the DNA things where you test your genetics and I find out that I’m from the Iberian Peninsula. I’m 31% from Mali —like, I have all these origins within me and you can see them!"
"I was growing up and not thinking that I was good enough."
Before she scored her role on "OITNB," Polanco couldn't help but wonder if her Afro-Latina features were holding her back.
"I just thought, ‘Oh my God, if only I had lighter eyes. If
only I had lighter hair. If only I was skinny. Oh my God, if I was a size 0, I
know I would get more work. I could play an Italian right now! ... This is why you’re not getting a job.’"
She soon realized, though, that her gorgeous features should be celebrated — *never* hidden.
"For [my features] to not be accepted as something that can
be represented in a film or in such a way that it’s ‘acceptable,’ it’s
offensive," Polanco declared.
"I love myself. I love myself enough to know that I’m as important as anyone else out there."
But unfortunately, Polanco works in an industry that still doesn't value the diversity and richness of ALL Latinx cultures.
"When I look at all these articles, these magazines ... I don't see a Latino in it. I see [everyone is] Black or white," she sighed. "Like, ‘All the Powerful Women of Hollywood’ and I don’t see not one Latina in it ... It’s like, ‘If you’re gonna have one, you can only have one. You can’t have a couple. You can’t acknowledge [multiple] people.’ ... It’s disappointing, as an actor, not to see that. We have so much culture, and such richness, and we bring so much life.”
However, she's doing her part to encourage other Latinas to love every ounce of their beautiful selves.
“Every day, I am learning how to love myself more," Polanco said. "Something I really am working on is #SelfLovery. This is this whole project that I’m working on where we’re including men and women, to just take a moment to really self-analyze and to say, 'I love myself.’"
She concluded, "I just want my fans to walk with me in this.”