Dascha Polanco's confidence comes from her battle to overcome fear.
The actress, who can now be seen singing and dancing in In the Heights (now in theaters and on HBO Max), is partnering up with Olay Body and its new body wash as an Olay Ambassador. Teaming up with brands that she feels celebrate her have helped the Orange Is the New Black star on her journey of empowerment.
"I love products that really uplift the community and have positive messages," Polanco tells PEOPLE. "Fear, the concept of fear for me, has been something that I've had to overcome. And I have. Being fearless is what has allowed me to get to where I'm at today."
The 38-year-old actress made her mark in Netflix shows like Orange Is the New Black, Russian Doll and When They See Us. All of those projects featured a largely diverse cast, with Polanco representing for Latinos.
Her role in In the Heights is an extension of that, and Polanco feels proud that Latinos have felt themselves seen in her roles onscreen.
"I feel like I'm learning how to receive it," she says of the pressure of being one of the few Latinas constantly working. "What an honor for people to really express that I represent them, that I inspire them, that they look up to me. When I look back and I'm like, wait a minute, I remember not being able to really look up to anyone, because there was no one out there, except for like Selena."
"I stand there and I'm like, wow, the moment that I had the opportunity to create more opportunities for others, I am. So I'm empowered by that," she adds.
Polanco plays Cuca, one of the salon ladies alongside Daphne Rubin-Vega and Stephanie Beatriz. The movie features a fully Latin and Black cast, and Polanco remembers feeling so fulfilled on a set full of people who looked like her.
"It uplifts you, it validates you, it motivates you, it inspires you," she says of the experience. "It allows you to understand as an artist, and even as an audience, right? Sitting there as an audience, 'I have a dream, I can do this. My story is important.' "
"It's just shifting the lens," she adds of more representation onscreen. "Taking the light and shining it onto others, doesn't take the light away from you."