Dascha Yolaine Polanco

Dascha Polanco

Dascha Polanco, an esteemed American actress with Dominican roots, has made her mark in various genres including comedy, drama, and thrillers. Her journey to fame initiated with a minor role in the crime drama “Unforgettable,” but it was her portrayal of Dayanara “Daya” Diaz in the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” that catapulted her to widespread acclaim. In the series, she played the prison-serving daughter of Aleida Diaz.

What we know about this person

Full name:

Dascha Yolaine Polanco

Date of birth:

December 3, 1982

Zodiac sign:



Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic




Dominican Republic, USA

Marital status:





5' 5" (1.65 m)



Early life

Born on December 3, 1982, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Dascha Yolaine Polanco is the daughter of Ruben Dario Polanco, an automotive mechanic, and Janet Polanco, a beautician. Dascha grew up with a younger brother and sister. At the age of six, her family relocated to the United States, making her formative memories rooted in American soil. She was brought up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where she also received her education.

Dascha harbored dreams of acting from a young age but was initially hesitant to pursue auditions due to her weight. She went on to attain a degree in psychology from Hunter College in Brooklyn, which led her to a career in healthcare. Nevertheless, her passion for acting persisted, and she eventually enrolled in an acting studio to study drama, overcoming her insecurities to chase her dream.


Dascha Polanco in Orange is the New Black


Dascha Polanco’s acting career is distinguished by her participation in 15 roles across 12 projects. After graduating from acting school in New York, she started landing minor roles, thanks to Shirley Grant, a prominent talent agent who helped her secure supporting roles in the series “NYC 22” and “Unforgettable.”

Directed by notable figures like Jean de Segonzac, Paul Holahan, and Matt Earl Beesley, Polanco acted alongside talents such as Dylan Walsh and James Hiroyuki Liao in “Unforgettable.” Both “NYC 22” and “Unforgettable,” crime dramas by genre, laid the groundwork for Polanco’s predominant acting niche. However, it was “Orange Is the New Black” that truly showcased her talent, telling the story of criminals as opposed to the police procedural focus of her earlier works.

Polanco’s career surged with her role in “Orange Is the New Black,” adapted from Piper Kerman’s memoir. The Netflix series brought her character, Daya, into the spotlight—a Latina navigating complex relationships with her family while imprisoned. The show enjoyed immense popularity, particularly among American homemakers, with Polanco starring alongside Kate Mulgrew, Uzo Aduba, and Madeline Brewer.

A pivotal moment in her career was her transition from a recurring to a regular role in “Orange Is the New Black,” appearing in 80 of the 91 episodes over seven seasons. Between seasons, Polanco featured in “Gimme Shelter” alongside Vanessa Anne Hudgens and James Earl Jones, further solidifying her acting credentials.

Polanco also left a lasting impression in the biographical drama “Joy,” with Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, and the comedy-drama “The Cobbler” with Adam Sandler. Beyond her film and TV roles, Polanco has lent her voice to characters in European animated projects and appeared on major American talk shows.

Dascha Yolaine Polanco Movies and TV Shows

  • 2022


    Tiffany Cleary

  • 2019–2022

    Russian Doll


  • 2019–...

    Evil (episode “3 Stars”)

    Patti Hitchens

  • 2019

    When They See Us (episode “Part Three”)


  • 2019

    The Irishman


  • 2016–2021

    The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

    Detective Lori Weider

  • 2015



  • 2014

    The Cobbler


  • 2013–2019

    Orange Is the New Black

    Dayanara “Daya” Diaz

  • 2011–2016

    Unforgettable (episode “Trajectories”)


Talk Shows

  • 2021

    The Tamron Hall Show

    Role: Guest

  • 2018

    Ok! TV

    Role: Guest

  • 2016

    Fashion Police

    Role: Guest

  • 2015–2016

    Made in Hollywood

    Role: Guest

  • 2015–2019


    Role: Guest

  • 2015

    The Wendy Williams Show

    Role: Guest

  • 2014

    Entertainment Tonight

    Role: Guest

Dascha Polanco's personal life and family

Dascha Polanco keeps her romantic relationships private. The actress is not in an official marriage but had a daughter at eighteen and had a son two years thereafter. The identity of their father remains undisclosed, though rumors suggest he was a classmate whose friendship with Polanco blossomed into love. Polanco’s daughter has even stepped into her mother’s acting shoes, featuring as the young Daya in “Orange Is the New Black.”

In Polanco’s life, not all chapters have been without controversy. In 2015, she faced legal issues for allegedly assaulting a teenager. Investigations revealed the teenager, a neighbor, initiated the altercation with inappropriate comments directed at Polanco, leading to a physical response from her. Subsequent legal proceedings absolved Polanco of wrongdoing, uncovering the neighbor’s accusation as an attempted shakedown.


Dascha Polanco with her son


Dascha Polanco with her daughter

Dascha Polanco now

Dascha Polanco’s career continues to flourish, bolstered by affiliations with renowned agencies such as Gersh and Shirley Grant Management. Her portfolio has expanded to include significant roles in projects like “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (2018), “Russian Doll” (2019), and the compelling “When They See Us” (2019). The year also witnessed her participation in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” featuring alongside luminaries such as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. The superhero flick “Samaritan” made its debut in 2022.

2022 also saw the production of “Poker Face,” a thriller eagerly awaited by audiences. Directed by Russell Crowe and starring Polanco, Lil Rel Howery, Elsa Pataky, and Liam Hemsworth, the film has lived up to its substantial pre-release hype. With its premiere, “Poker Face” quickly became one of the most celebrated releases of the year, much to the delight of both critics and audiences alike.

Published: February 6, 2024
Updated: June 24, 2024