Dascha Polanco talks to her feet after getting a pedicure. “I know it sounds crazy,” she says with a laugh. “But it really isn’t.” It keeps her grounded.
In fact, the actor has spent the past year using self-care and affirmations like this to overcome fear, especially in her work. Part of her self-care arsenal also includes aligning with projects that inspire her. She recently partnered with Olay Body as an ambassador, and the world has seen her stand-out performances in Orange Is the New Black, American Crime Story, When They See Us, Russian Doll and, most recently, In the Heights.
Cuca (Dascha Polanco) is a brand-new character in the film adaptation of the stage musical. Glittery acrylics and waist bags in tow, she shares chisme with the salon squad of Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega) and Carla (Stephanie Beatriz). Whether lounging by the pool in a teal floral coverup and pink bikini or dancing with a Dominican Republic flag in a burgundy crop top and leggings, Cuca is always the most stylish person in the room.
“To be able to draw inspiration from female figures in my family and my community that represented icons and matriarchs—priestesses that uplift and are necessary and essential—I haven’t been able to do that,” she says. “This was the first of that, and it definitely made me feel empowered and validated.”
Polanco says her inspiration for Cuca is her aunt, who is a small-business owner with her own salon. The relationship a customer builds with their nail tech or hairstylist creates a tight-knit community, Polanco says. One that helps raise you and builds your identity.
“We just say ‘salon ladies,’ but we don’t understand that there’s layers,” Polanco says. “There’s a sense of intimacy when we speak about people doing your hair, when people are in your face, when people are getting body treatments. You’re in a space where you’re very vulnerable. You’re getting waxed, right? That’s very intimate.”
Which brings us back to those post-salon affirmations. In this installment of Your Fave’s Faves, read as Dascha Polanco tells you about all the tools she uses for self-care.
The shower product I can’t live without
During those stages in your life when you really get exposed to the idea of caring for yourself, I was taught that skin care is important. That’s something I’m very thankful for. When Olay came out with this new exfoliating and moisturizing body wash, I was like, “What?! This is what I like.” I have sensitive skin, and it’s gentle enough that I can use it every day. It massages away the dead skin cells, so it improves my skin along the way and hydrates it. I was really excited about that, and I like products that use natural ingredients as well.
How I self-care
I write, I speak to myself—affirmations. I should be meditating every day, but I feel like my meditation is in the shower. It’s good to see a therapist to speak about things and to embrace the feelings and to be aware. Even with In the Heights, I was really scared to audition. Not being seen or seeing someone like me [on screen] has hindered me along the way. [So it’s important to] take that time to really face yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m worthy. I can do this. It’s okay; push that aside. Be fearless. Stand in your greatness. Don’t not try.”