News Politics & Social Issues Dascha Polanco Talks Body Positivity & The Most New York Experience She's Ever Had The actress also explains what makes a true "badass" woman. By InStyle Editors InStyle Editors Instagram Twitter InStyle's mantra is "Everybody's in," and that means anyone who finds their way to our stories should find themselves reflected in them. We prioritize bringing the right writer to every story and sometimes collaborate as a team to ensure we're including points of view across race, gender expression, body size, skin and hair type, and more. Our editors and writers comprise decades of expertise across the beauty, fashion, lifestyle and wellness spaces in print and digital. We prioritize journalistic integrity, factual accuracy, and also having fun with every story we share. For more about our team, click here. InStyle's editorial guidelines Published on July 29, 2021 @ 11:00AM Pin Share Tweet Email Photo: Getty Images When she learned she booked her first significant role as Daya Diaz on Netflix's Orange Is The New Black, Dascha Polanco was rocking a lab coat during her stint at one of the many hospitals she worked at in New York City. That call changed her life forever. Since then, the actress has appeared in several movies, including most recently as Cuca, one of the lead salon ladies, in the Lin-Manuel Miranda film In the Heights. "The table read for Joy was unforgettable. First of all, I was in Boston. Second of all, I was across the table of Robert De Niro. I mean, Robert De Niro, come on. Something people wouldn't expect from working with Lin Manuel Miranda is I used to be intimidated by him. And now I'm like, you don't scare me. He's so sweet. And he's so generous," Polanco says when she sat down with us for her Badass Questionnaire interview below. The Dominican-born and New York City-raised actress is paving her way in Hollywood. But what sets Polanco apart from many in the business is her sense of self, especially when it comes to protecting her mental health. "Mental health is very important for me. I realize that if I did not let go of the insecurities of not loving myself, then I would have been what? Pay attention to yourself. Be selfish," she says. As with many women, Polanco truly believes in body positivity. And as a curvy woman, she isn't afraid to use her body as a form of expressing that. "The key to body positivity and/or neutrality is to know that it's a process. I think for yourself, the way that you take care of body positivity or neutrality is to really do what best makes you feel most comfortable. Okay? And for those that are on the outside, mind your business and accept things for what they are. Let people be," she says. Polanco is known to slay a red carpet or two and shine on the big screen no matter who she's starring opposite of. But that doesn't mean she's exempt from experiencing New York City like everyone else. And if there's one person who can humble you, it's a New York City cab driver. "The most New York thing to ever happen to me was being in a yellow cab and him kicking me out because he couldn't go any further. He was tired of the traffic. Yellow cab, mad rude," Polanco says. That may not have been her most badass woman moment, but she definitely knows what makes a badass woman. "A badass woman is free," the actress says.