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Dascha Polanco Is Learning True Body Positivity One Nude Photo At A Time

Celebrity News

It is a truly amazing feeling to be able to love the woman you see looking back at you in the mirror.


Our flaws can make us feel broken, and the concept of comparison can be overwhelming, especially when you never felt whole in the first place. These feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt create a negative self-image that we never actually agreed to. We are then prisoners to our physical bodies, left to suffer in what feels like hell forever. Dascha Polanco is among the women determined to break free from these chains.

After overcoming years of depression and self-loathing, the Orange Is The New Black star is taking her power back. Dascha recently spoke with Women's Health about how she is confronting her lifelong struggle with body positivity one nude photo at a time (peep that photo here).

"Reminding yourself of how strong you are is a powerful thing. I want to be mentally healthy, not just physically strong—that's what shines through the screen no matter what."

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The 35-year-old mother of two made the bold decision to bear all in the magazine's latest issue, and shared details about when she first developed a negative self-image. She said:

"My whole life, I've had ups and downs when it comes to confidence. I remember looking at myself as a kid and knowing I was different than the other girls—I was chubby and curvier and had rolls and thick thighs. My school uniform skirt never fit right—it was longer in the front and too short in the back."

We can all relate, being a young woman is a real-life struggle. Not only do we have to endure periods and erratic hormones, but our bodies also sometimes develop in ways we aren't always comfortable with or confident about. As we become curvier and grow hips, bellies, and breasts, most of us, like Dascha, begin to formulate concepts about our bodies: what they are, what they should be, and most importantly, what they are not.

"In reality my body type was the norm, but I was always looking at it negatively and comparing myself to the super-slim 'cool girls.' I questioned my body—why couldn't it be like theirs? I just wanted to look like those girls."

From that point, Dasha's perceived value of herself decreased and ultimately began to affect her mental state. She created a cycle of negative-self talk that sent her into a spiral of depression. She told Women's Health:

"I got to a point where I wished I could cut off my rolls with scissors. I would grab at my thighs and say, 'Ugh, I hate you, you're ugly, I don't like you! Oh my God, I just want to get rid of this!' But talking to myself that way never made me feel better, just guilty."

Dascha, like many of us, was trapped within the unrealistic expectations of perfection that we set for ourselves when we were only children. It wasn't until she became a mother that she decided it was time for a change.

"The biggest shift in how I viewed my body happened when I became a mother 16 years ago. I wanted to instill in my kids self-acceptance and a sense of self-love. I wanted them to know they're unique and that that's what makes them beautiful. I wanted them to be confident, and I knew I had to model that."

This change included adopting a new standard of beauty, and taking the time to celebrate her eccentricities instead of focusing on her flaws. Dascha reminded us that one of the key ways to attain self-love is to master self-acceptance.

"I started focusing on the things I really love about myself. Like, I've achieved the dream I had my whole life to be an actress. That's incredible. I'm a leader and a volunteer in my community. And wanting to eat a burger doesn't impact my acting or my ability to help people. Neither does getting older—reaching new decades and going through physical changes is something we should celebrate, not fear. When I realized that, it helped me let go of the little things that bugged me and respect my body for what it allows me to do. I wanted to care for it."

Dascha's newfound self-care practices include exercise, meditation, and most importantly, changing the narrative of her self-talk.

"The most important change I've made is in how I talk to myself. Now, I look at my thighs, and I celebrate them. I say, 'I love you guys! You help me walk, you fill my pants up.' I thank my vagina for giving me my womanly power. It's important to talk to your body and thank your body."

Dascha's story is unwritten, and so is yours. Making the decision to invest in who she is, rather than the expectations of who she should be, turned out to be one of the best decisions of the young actress' life, but it wasn't easy.

Developing a relationship with yourself is the same as developing a relationship with a new friend or partner. Even when you may not be fond of their every characteristic, you love them flaws and all. The same is true for the relationship that you develop with yourself. She said:

"Learning to love yourself is just like learning to love someone in a relationship. You don't like every single thing about them, but you love them. You can love yourself without liking everything all the time."

To read the full essay, click here.

Featured image by lev radin / Shutterstock.com

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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