Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the cover star of Vanity Fair’s December 2020 issue, in which the congresswoman opens up about what it’s like to be perceived as a glamorous politician plucked from a working-class family in the Bronx.
“It’s legitimately hard being a first-generation woman ... and being working class, trying to navigate a professional environment,” she shared about making her way to D.C. after being a bartender. “It continues to take me so long to try to figure out how to look put-together without having a huge designer closet.”
The 31-year-old, who models an ivory silk wool suit from Aliétte for her cover shoot, also talked about feeling out of place while growing up miles away from grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins less fortunate than her nuclear family, while struggling to fit in with the people she went to school with as a young Latina. Later, her father’s death forced her to start waitressing and bartending to make money for her family. Now, as a congresswoman, AOC still struggles to find common ground with the people she works with, who are seemingly more familiar with their corporate environments. The way Ocasio-Cortez deals, she says, is with a red lip.
“Every time I go on TV, people ask for my lipstick,” she said, acknowledging that a bold lip has become a signature not only for herself, but also for Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar — all women of color serving as U.S. representatives. Most notably, Ocasio-Cortez had on a red lip when she delivered a powerful speech in response to her run-in with Rep. Ted Yoho, who called her a “f***ing b****.”
“You know how I know you showed up to do business? Because you matched your lip with your suit,” she recalled Pressley saying to her. “That’s when I knew she didn’t come to play.”
Ocasio-Cortez confirmed, “I had a little war paint on that day, for sure.”
It wouldn’t be the first time that the congresswoman likened her fashion and beauty choices to something much deeper, as she appeared in a video for Vogue in August talking about how her red lip gives her confidence to fight the patriarchy.
“Our culture is so predicated on diminishing women and kind of preying on our self-esteem,” she said in the video. “So it’s kind of a radical, in my opinion, it’s quite a radical act and it’s almost like a mini-protest to love yourself.”
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