Dascha Polanco dishes on her journey to body positivity

In Dascha Polanco's world, the 'standard' Hollywood woman doesn't exist. 

Growing up in New York City, the Dominican-born star was surrounded by women of all colors, shapes and sizes. Early on, Polanco was taught about the importance of diversity and inclusion and embracing the flaws that make you feel most insecure. In fact, those same vulnerabilities are the things the actress is most prideful of now.

"We lean towards not caring what people say, but we have stages in our lives when we do," Polanco told AOL. "We have so many components that deteriorate our confidence and body. But we have to be aware that it's always a work in progress and that it's okay to fall into the back and forth," she continued. 

For Polanco, the biggest moments of 'insecurity' she faced were during her teenage years and after giving birth to her two children. However, her struggle with body positivity and eventual journey to accepting herself didn't quite prepare her for the stinging rejection Hollywood initially delivered. 

"When I first started auditioning, I used to get the feedback "she's too urban." It used to really hurt my feelings because being urban, I don't understand what it is, but I did grow up in an 'urban' community -- and I have swag. I'm proud of that," Polanco boasted. "There should be no reason why I should feel like I'm not enough because I'm considered urban. Now everyone wants to live this urban way when they truly haven't experienced it." 

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Faced with a decision to give up or power through the negative feedback, Polanco decided to fight for herself. Years and an A-list group of colleagues later, the hard work and perseverance are paying off. However, despite her highly-acclaimed role as Dayanara "Daya" Diaz in the Netflix series 'Orange is the New Black' and her part in the upcoming musical 'In the Heights,'  Polanco didn't expect to receive the outpouring of love and recognition from people who now look up to her. 

"It's something that I learned to embrace," she said humbly. "But I have had the privilege and the honor to come across a lot of people from different ages and backgrounds to just express how important it is to see themselves in me -- and that's a true honor. I did not expect that to be the outcome of me just following my dreams." 

While the actress may have not predicted her aspirations to land her in a position of influence, she's accepting it. "Now that I'm learning to embrace it, I'm using it as a way to use my platform to be part of [important] conversations," says Polanco. 

Polanco recently partnered with Foot Locker to host a panel for the brand's newest initiative, 'All Women Welcome.'  The project aims to uplift women of all shapes and sizes to actively engage in the streetwear community and encouraging them to express their individuality through their fashion choices. 

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Though Polanco admitted she never hosted a panel before, she courageously jumped asking the esteemed style panelists, Lala AnthonyIlianna AyalaSashà Elina, questions about their style tips, self-confidence and self-expression.

As the actress begins to venture into other lanes, her motto is to always stay true to herself. 

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