- December 03, 1982 (age 38)
Dascha Polanco, born December 3, 1982, is a Dominican American actress. She is known for playing the character Dayanara Diaz on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.
Polanco was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States at a young age. She was raised in Sunset Park Brooklyn, New York and Miami by her father, a mechanic, and mother, a cosmetologist. Polanco is the oldest of three children, she has a brother and sister.
Polanco has two children, a daughter and a son. Her daughter portrayed a younger version of Polanco's character in the fifth season of Orange is the New Black.
Polanco aspired to be an actress from an early age but "always doubted auditioning because of [her] weight", so she completed a bachelor's degree in psychology at Hunter College. After college she began working in the healthcare industry with the intention of becoming a nurse. She was working in hospital administration at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx while studying nursing when she gained the courage to pursue acting again and registered herself with an acting studio. She attended BIH Studios in New York, and while there was signed by the talent agency Shirley Grant Management. Her first acting credits were minor parts on the television series Unforgettable and NYC 22.
In 2012, Polanco was cast in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black as Dayanara "Daya" Diaz, an inmate in a women's prison; it was her first full-time acting job.
Polanco subsequently appeared in the independent film Gimme Shelter (2013) before returning to her role on Orange Is the New Black for the show's second season. In June 2014, it was announced that she had been promoted from a recurring role to a series regular for the show's third season, which was released in June 2015. She appeared in the comedy films The Cobbler (2014) and Joy (2015), and starred in the film The Perfect Match (2016).