7 life lessons from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she appears on the front cover of Time

22nd Mar 19 | Lifestyle

There's a lot we can learn from the new American politician, says Prudence Wade.

Election 2020 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

At just 29 years old, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest person in Congress and is quickly becoming one of the most talked-about figures in American politics.

Just last year she was waitressing while campaigning to become the US Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, so her rise to prominence isn’t exactly a conventional one.

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Wonder Woman of the left, Wicked Witch of the right, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the second most talked-about politician in America, after the President of the United States. Since beating 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary to represent New York’s 14th District last June, the 29-year-old former bartender has pressured 2020 presidential candidates into supporting her #GreenNewDeal, made campaign-finance reform go viral and helped activists banish Amazon from #Queens with a couple of tweets. No lawmaker in recent memory has translated so few votes into so much political and social capital so quickly, writes @charlottealter. #AOC represents one vision of the Democratic Party’s future. She’s a young Hispanic woman, three cornerstones of the party’s electoral coalition. She’s a democratic socialist at a time when confidence in capitalism is declining, especially among progressive millennials. The issues she ran on—Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee, abolishing ICE—are animating a new generation of Democrats. She’s a political phenomenon: part activist, part legislator, arguably the best storyteller in the party since @barackobama and perhaps the only Democrat right now with the star power to challenge @realdonaldtrump’s. Read this week's full cover story at the link in bio. Photograph by @collierschorrstudio for TIME

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Now, she’s made the front cover of Time, with an accompanying profile detailing her journey to Capitol Hill. As a millennial politician, she’s shared much of her journey on social media, and as such there’s a whole lot we can learn from Ocasio-Cortez…

1. It’s important to take time for yourself

In December, Ocasio-Cortez explained on Instagram stories why she was taking a week off for self-care, saying: “I’ve been campaigning nonstop for two years: Through multiple jobs, double shifts, morning commutes on the subway, etc. I neglected myself in the process – before the campaign, I used to practice yoga 3-4x/week, eat nutritiously, read and write for leisure.”

She continues: “As soon as everything kicked up, that all went out the window. I went from doing yoga and making wild rice and salmon dinners to eating fast food for dinner and falling asleep in my jeans and make-up.”

Ocasio-Cortez stresses the need to take time for yourself, otherwise you’ll burn out. She also makes the point that self-care is often demonised, and society values “working hard” over anything else. She adds: “I also find conversations around self-care emotionally challenging when you come from an immigrant, poor, or working class background.”

2. You can never go wrong with a good skincare routine

For many millennials, skincare is a form of self-care – and Ocasio-Cortez is no different. She gave the fans what they wanted back in January by sharing her skincare regime on her Instagram stories.

She writes: “I consider my approach a blend between K-beauty and scientific consensus.” It involves double-cleansing – first with a balm or oil to melt off the make-up, followed by a soapy cleanser. Next, she uses an alcohol-free toner then a serum, and finishes with moisturiser and sunscreen.

Not only is Ocasio-Cortez teaching us things about politics, but also broader life lessons like the importance of sunscreen, which she calls “the most important thing”. She shares: “I’ve been using daily sunscreen since I was 19. I’ve been bad about it lately & can tell the difference.”

3. Be yourself

As the youngest person in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez has a fair bit to teach her peers about social media. And with 3.62m followers on Twitter, it’s no surprise some of the older members are keen to listen to what she has to say.

On January 15, Ocasio-Cortez schooled fellow Democrats, and she told ABC some of the tips she passed on. The main one is “don’t try to be anybody who you’re not” – something which Ocasio-Cortez seems to carry into her real life as well.

“If you don’t know what a meme is don’t post a meme” is less of a broad life lesson, but still a great titbit.

4. Don’t let critics bring you down

As a prominent woman of colour, Ocasio-Cortez has found herself on the receiving end of a lot of scrutiny. However, she doesn’t let it get her down.

In November, a reporter wrote in a now-deleted tweet, “that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles” – in reference to Ocasio-Cortez saying she couldn’t afford housing in Washington DC until her new salary kicked in. In response, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about how no one would ever be satisfied with what she would wear and adds: “Dark hates light – that’s why you tune it out.”

Even when critics unearthed an old university video of her dancing in a bid to embarrass her, she managed to turn this round into a positive viral hit.

5. Be prepared to work hard

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A year ago I was waitressing in a restaurant while organizing my community. In a time and place where we had been burned by so many politicians, and had grown deservedly cynical of the sad, familiar cycle of campaign promises and governance excuses, I was asking them, just once, to believe. . It was really hard, because how do you make that case? How to ask someone whose trust has been violated over and over to believe you? To believe in the movement for justice and economic dignity? . You show up. You give unconditionally. You show up when no one is looking and the cameras are off. You offer support when it’s risky, but necessary. You do it over and over again, without a need for recognition or expectation that you are “owed” something for doing the right thing. You just… engage in the act of loving your community. . Never in my wildest dreams did I think that those late nights on the 6 & 7 trains would lead to this. All this attention gives me a lot of anxiety (my staff fought to get me to agree to this cover, as I was arguing against it), and still doesn’t feel quite real, which maybe is why I remain comfortable taking risks, which maybe is a good thing. . I believe in an America where all things are possible. Where a basic, dignified life isn’t a dream, but a norm. . That’s why I got up then, and it’s why I get up now. Because my story shouldn’t be a rare one. Because our collective potential as a nation can be unlocked when we’re not so consumed with worry about how we’re going to secure our most basic needs, like a doctor’s visit or an affordable place to live.

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It’s no secret Ocasio-Cortez has been grinding hard to get where she is now. When her Time cover was revealed, she wrote on Instagram about making the effort even at the hardest of times.

She writes: “You show up. You give unconditionally. You show up when no one is looking and the cameras are off. You offer support when it’s risky, but necessary. You do it over and over again, without a need for recognition or expectation that you are “owed” something for doing the right thing.” This really encapsulates her whole work ethos.

6. Be proud of where you come from

Considering she was waitressing just last year, it’s safe to say Ocasio-Cortez has a pretty different background from a lot of other politicians on Capitol Hill. However, she still shows pride in where she came from, instead of trying to hide who she is.

The same goes for her Hispanic heritage. Ocasio-Cortez wore red lipstick and hoop earrings to be sworn in to Congress as a dedication to Sonia Sotomayor – the first Latina Justice of the Supreme Court.

7. Speak up for what you believe in

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Speechwriting on the 6 train.

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A lot of Ocasio-Cortez’s policy proposals are quite extreme, particularly her Green New Deal. Through this, she’s showing you have to take risks to make change, and the importance of speaking up for what you believe in.

She writes on Instagram of her Time cover: “I believe in an America where all things are possible. Where a basic, dignified life isn’t a dream, but a norm.”

Ocasio-Cortez is shaking up politics in America, whether people like it or not. As she said at this year’s Women’s March: “Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet. In fact, often times, the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table.”

© Press Association 2019