OITNB-Dascha-Polanco OITNB-Dascha-Polanco

Dascha Polanco: Arrested Development

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Orange is the New Black’s rookie roster lends a dose of Dominican flavor to a prison love story that’s so wrong, it has to be right.

She may be holed up in a women’s penitentiary, but no one has a bigger set of balls than Dayanara Diaz. For Dascha Polanco, becoming a fan favorite is inevitable when your scenes include going head-to-head with a feisty mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez), hiding a prohibited pregnancy and engaging in secret sexy time with a hot prison guard (played by the adorable Matt McGorry). Driven by a complicated family history, fierce independence and forbidden romance, this undercover lover is hardly the wallflower of Litchfield.

Like her detained doppelganger, Dascha is all about taking risks. With just a handful of previous acting gigs to her name, she barely made her OITNB audition between working two day jobs. A well-balanced cocktail of grit, talent and Brooklyn boldness eventually landed her the game-changing role. Engaged and already a mother off-screen, the Dominican actress is probably the best person to give her character a bit of you-can-have-it-all advice. Luckily, living an adult life hasn’t diminished the youthful spirit that hits you like a jolt the instant you meet her.

From the time we met at VIBE headquarters until the end of our shoot in her hometown, Polanco never ceased to toss in her two cents or spark debate on any given subject, including the acting dynamic between her and McGorry that strangely mirrors that of their characters’. Carrying infectious energy like a designer clutch, our cover girl played games, posed like a pro and declared her love for Lorde long before the cameras made their final flash. Dascha may be a newbie, but she works it like an old vet.
She’s a BK babe and Latina fashionista; the woman with quiet strength who can’t be ignored. Go ahead—we dare you to try.

Dascha Polanco-polaroid-collage

Did you expect such overnight success?
It’s unexpected in the sense that my focus wasn’t on the attention that I was going to get for the show. I’m handling it quite well. It’s so validating that the fans and the public are enjoying my work; that they’re actually letting me know via Twitter, via Instagram and I will never get used to that. So, every time I do receive it, I’m so welcome to it and still in shock.

Were you a fan of social media beforehand?
I’ve had to get used to it. I had Instagram before, but not Twitter because I’m more of a visual person. But, now it’s addicting. I’m on social media everyday- it’s so informative!

You’re one of the newer actors on set. When did you get your start?
I’ve had an interest in acting since third grade, but a couple years ago, my fiancée registered me in an acting studio and I found my manager through that and eventually had the confidence to audition. I believe it was 2010 that that started.


Your acting in general?
No, the courage to actually audition and not be afraid of rejection.

What drew you to this project?
Jenji Kohan, the whole Netflix idea- I was very excited when I heard the concept knowing that a lot of people hadn’t known about it yet. The whole show is so brilliant and makes me proud to be a part of this whole project.

Were you familiar with Piper Kerman before auditioning?
No, I was not. I didn’t read the book until we started shooting and it grew my interest even more. Jenji amazes me. To read this book and then create this branch that grows from it with so many interesting issues. [Piper] does visit set a lot. I was excited because I thought, “Wow, I met an actual author! (laughs)” For her to be involved gives it so much life because usually when people make movies or shows based on stories, I rarely see this happen and then they end up moving away from the actual facts. She brings truth to the set.


Did not knowing the memoir make your audition difficult?
When I auditioned, I didn’t know the storyline. All I knew was that she was talking to her own mother in prison. What connects me and Daya together is no matter the struggle or what she’s been through, she can’t hold grudges and she really loves and wants to forgive and forget.

The fans love Daya and Bennett’s secret love affair. If you could write it, what would happen to them next?
We have to look at both aspects—realistically and in our romanticism and fantasies. I would like for them both to be able to somehow—and this sounds so wrong—infiltrate the system so that he could take care of the baby while she does her time in jail. If you look at it outside the concept of jail and how forbidden love happens today—I want the same thing to happen for Daya and Bennett. Fight through all the circumstances and if it’s really true love, then at the end, they will eventually get to share those moments.

Is Matt McGorry as sweet as his character?
Matt is such a humble individual and so genuine. We always tell each other, we're so thankful that this journey that we've begun- we're lucky to have it with one another. When we're working together, the chemistry that people see, is us supporting each other as Dascha and Matt. I am very thankful to have him.


What’s your strategy for acting with people you’re not supposed to be so in love with, like Aleida and Mendez?
As actors, we all have our methods when preparing for a role. One of the things I’ve trained myself to do is to have a collage or a journal of my character and I create the emotions that somebody would have through that. So, when I’m going in to deal with my mother, I have to train myself and prep by reading this journal. So, when you’re working with talented individuals like Elizabeth [Rodriguez] and Pablo [Scheider], it becomes easy to react because the chemistry is there. They’re always giving me energy. Luckily, we sort of just mesh so I can think “I can’t stand my mother” or “I hate his pornstache and I hate him (laughs).”

Who is your favorite OITNB character?
Crazy Eyes. Uzo [Aduba] is amazing. I hang out with her, so I know her personally and she blows me away. But, I wouldn’t want to play her character. I would play Daya again because everyone just sort of hits their characters on the spot.

It’s clear all of you get along. What are you doing off set?
Normal stuff like girl talk or shopping. If we’re not feeling well, we take care of each other. It’s such a great bond that sometimes you question whether any of it is bullshit, but it’s actually not. The love off set is so real. We share many moments. I have no favorites. We all have leveled out relationships so everyone is just with everyone.


Awards season is just around the corner. What are your predictions for OITNB?

I am going to tell you something. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to talk about it because I want it to happen. But, I feel so good about this and I’m so proud that even if it doesn’t happen, it’s whatever. I want us to win Emmy’s. We’re going to take them all. Let Breaking Bad and all those other shows enjoy it now because next year we’re going big. We deserve as many awards as they can categorize us in. And I’m not just talking; the fans are talking.

And what can you tell us about season 2?
Can you tell me? We haven’t gotten all of the scripts yet because we’re still sort of wrapping things up with season 1. I’m with the fans on that.

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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