The Stunning Transformation Of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is arguably one of the most famous and up-and-coming politicians out there. Elected in 2018 to the U.S. House of Representatives, Ocasio-Cortez has received an enormous amount of attention — both positive and negative — for her politics and her outspoken manner. Plus her skincare regimen is also clearly outstanding, as are her makeup and fashion skills. That bold red lip is on fleek.

Ocasio-Cortez may be dominating headlines now, but, before she was a politician, her life was pretty normal. A New Yorker by birth, Ocasio-Cortez has humble origins that many other politicians do not, as well as life experiences that have set her apart from the crowd. Additionally, she's savvier with social media and visual skills than many of her counterparts on the hill, which is part of why she's gotten where she is, according to Columbia Journalism Review.

What else is there to know about this congressional phenom? And how has she changed since she was a little girl? Read on to learn about the stunning transformation of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from a baby in New York City to one fearless political powerhouse.

Everyone knows Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Bronx native

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn't just represent New York City in Congress. She's also a native of the Bronx and has extremely deep roots in the community. "My aunt and my uncle were just talking last Christmas about how they literally heard Malcolm X evangelizing on street corners," she shared in an interview with Vogue magazine in 2018. "That is the institutional memory of my family and multigenerational New York families." She added that memories like that are becoming more and more rare, making them rather unique.

The New York City that Ocasio-Cortez and her family grew up in was much different than it is today, something that's not lost on her and her family. As the city has changed, it's become less and less affordable, which has definitely had an impact. "My family is three generations deep in the Bronx," she continued. "And my own mother can't afford to live in the same city, in the same state as me anymore, because it's gotten too expensive." 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's parents embodied the American Dream

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's native Bronx has quite the sordid history, according to the New York Post. And it was during some especially challenging times that her parents' story began in the long-maligned borough. "I was born to a dad who was born in the South Bronx while the Bronx was burning, while landlords were committing arson to their own buildings," she recalled in an interview with Vogue magazine. "He grew up as a kid with five people in a one-bedroom apartment, and my mom was born in poverty in Puerto Rico."

Despite their impoverished beginning, after meeting in Puerto Rico, Ocasio-Cortez's mom and dad were able to make a living in the Bronx. "They met out there, they got married, came back, and had me," she continued. "And as 20-somethings they were able to take out a small loan and get an apartment in the Bronx, and have me." 

But that wasn't the last stop on their journey, as thanks to their hard work, they were able to buy a house in nearby Yorktown Heights shortly after Ocasio-Cortez was 5 years old, according to The New York Times.

Relocating to Westchester had a huge impact on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

One of the main reasons Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her parents moved to Westchester County was to find a better school district for her. Once the move was complete, however, it didn't take long Ocasio-Cortez to learn a valuable life lesson about privilege. "Just growing up that way and with my cousins, who were all my age too, [made us feel] like we all had kind of different opportunities, depending on where we were physically located," she explained in an interview with 60 Minutes. That's because her cousins remained in the Bronx, while she was out in the suburbs.

But things were good for Ocasio-Cortez and her family in Yorktown, as her mother, Blanca, tells it. "We had a great life there," she recalled in an interview with The Daily Mail. They had a yard that Ocasio-Cortez could play in and a shed that she converted into a clubhouse for her and her friends. Then in high school, she became a "voracious reader" of history and biography books. All in all, that sounds pretty idyllic.

Science was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's first passion

Long before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had any political aspirations, she was quite the serious science student. In 2007, when she was in high school, she even won second place in the International Science and Engineering Fair, with her project studying the anti-aging effect of antioxidants in roundworms. You can learn more about her project, if you're curious, on the Society for Science & the Public website.

As her high school science teacher Michael Bluegrass remembers Ocasio-Cortez, she was extremely competent and beyond professional while presenting her project. "One of the administrators wasn't there at the beginning and came in after she started, and he said to the superintendent, 'What company is she from?'" he revealed in an interview with The New York Times. "She presented herself, verbally, visually, everything, as if she was a 30-year-old professional presenter businesswoman even though she was 17 years old." That's insanely impressive for a high school student!

Did Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have a distinguished college career? You bet!

After finishing up high school, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez headed off to college — becoming the first in her family to do so, according to a tweet she made in 2018. "We were really working on the classic American dream," she recalled in an interview with 60 Minutes. Of course, Ocasio-Cortez had to take out student loans to finance her education, in addition to receiving scholarships and grants. But she was able to manage it, and she started at Boston University.

During her tenure in Beantown, Ocasio-Cortez was quite the busy bee, according to the Boston University website. She majored in international relations and economics (after switching from a biochemistry major, according to The New Yorker), and interned in Senator Ted Kennedy's office, specifically in the immigration department. Ocasio-Cortez graduated in 2011, with honors, according to an archived version of the 2011 Boston University Commencement program. That's no small feat! 

The untimely death of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's father

Despite the fact that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was super successful in her college endeavors, her time at university was not exactly a cakewalk, as her father passed away of cancer in 2008. This was a major blow for Ocasio-Cortez, who loved her father and took his passing very hard. "I channeled it into my studies," she shared in an interview with The New Yorker. "That's how I dealt with it. I was home for a week and went right back to school." And since the last thing he said to her was to make him proud, she turned her work ethic up to 11 and her GPA "skyrocketed."

In addition to the emotional pain of losing her father, Ocasio-Cortez's family was thrust into dire financial straits. "My father pretty much died with nothing," she explained in an interview with The Intercept. "He left us almost nothing except we had a house and small things here and there." Because of that, and because of the great recession, Ocasio-Cortez moved back home and worked as a waitress and a bartender to keep their family home out of foreclosure.

Standing Rock was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's tipping point

Although Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, she didn't have any real political ambitions of her own. But all of that changed when she had a first-hand look at one of the most controversial events of 2016 and 2017. "The tipping point was when I was at Standing Rock in 2016, and I saw how all of the people there — particularly the Native people and the Lakota Sioux — were putting their whole lives and everything that they had on the line for the protection of their community," she revealed in an interview with The Cut. "I saw how a corporation had literally militarized itself against the American people, and I just felt like we were at a point where we couldn't afford to ignore politics anymore." Thus her fire was finally kindled.

It just so happened that right at that time, an opportunity came knocking for Ocasio-Cortez. "It was the day that I got off camp that a national organization, Brand New Congress, called me and asked if I'd be willing to run," she continued. Of course, she said yes, and her political career was born.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is named NHI Person of the Year

After an eventful 2016, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rolled into 2017 full steam ahead. For one, she kicked off her primary campaign against congressman Joe Crowley, according to a timeline compiled by Business Insider. Bear in mind she was still working full-time at that point, so you know her days had to be especially long. 

But that didn't stop the congressional candidate and bartender from taking a break from her campaign to serve as the Educational Director for the 2017 Northeast Collegiate World Series for the National Hispanic Institute (NHI). In her role, she worked with 150 high school students, something that she said reminds her why she's running for office. "It's incredibly centering, and they are why I'm doing this," she said in a video posted by NHITV

Her work as an educator, her political ambition, and leadership skills were what earned her the honor of being named the 2017 NHI Person of the Year by NHI President Ernesto Nieto. "Alex symbolizes the new emerging Latina — bold and courageous, well-educated and forward thinking, contemporary with her ideas and views, and unafraid of challenges," Nieto said in a statement from the NHI.

The night that changed everything for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

In what has been called one of the most shocking political upsets of 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her primary election against ten-term incumbent congressman Joe Crowley in New York's 14th district. This was in spite of the fact that Crowley outspent her ten to one, and was the fourth-highest ranking democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congrats, Alexandria!

Ocasio-Cortez ran a homegrown campaign, and she didn't take a single dime of lobbyist money, according to a post on her Instagram page. "We have built a legitimately strong grassroots movement of organizers," she explained in an interview with CNN, which is clearly something she's extremely proud of.

Ocasio-Cortez thanked her supporters in the same Instagram post, and showed the world she was in this with them together. "All I can say is thank you. Thank you to everyone who believes in this movement," she wrote in the caption. "Thank you for understanding what positive change asks of us: that we MAKE it happen, not WAIT to happen." Amen to that!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest women ever elected to Congress

On Nov. 6, 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history when she defeated Republican Anthony Pappas and became the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to CNBC. Although the primary was her big win as she was expected to win the general election, Ocasio-Cortez kept campaigning all the way up to the last minute, showing just how seriously she took the process.

She took to Instagram the next day to thank her many supporters. "Thank you to the people of the Bronx and Queens for choosing to make history and sending me to Congress," she wrote in the caption of a post. "[Thanks] to every organizer, supporter, and small-dollar donor who made this happen."

Ocasio-Cortez was among four women of color who were on their way to the House for the first time, along with Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. The four have since become known as a formidable squad, according to The Washington Post, as they share similar political ideas and perspectives. Ocasio-Cortez posted an image of the four women on her Instagram page as well, of course captioning it "squad." Look out, Washington!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is fine with people calling her "radical"

One of the things that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is most known for is her progressive policies. Specifically, she is in favor of the Green New Deal, the abolition of ICE, free healthcare for every American, and free college for students, according to a post on her Instagram page. This platform has drawn the ire of her political opponents, some of whom have called her radical.

However, that label doesn't bother Ocasio-Cortez. "Well, I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country," she explained in a January 2019 interview with 60 Minutes. "Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security."

To that end, when she was asked if she considers herself a radical, she had an affirming answer. "Yeah," she continued. "You know, if that's what radical means, call me a radical." So she's not afraid to own the label that's been bestowed upon her by others, which honestly is kind of refreshing.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's low-profile romance

Although Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a household name now, she hasn't always been one. And interestingly enough, her longtime partner, Riley Roberts, has managed to largely stay under the radar, even as Ocasio-Cortez has skyrocketed into the public eye. The social media consultant has not grabbed too many headlines, although he has stood solidly by Ocasio-Cortez's side, as seen in the documentary Knock Down the House.

As for Ocasio-Cortez's mother, Blanca, she is a card-carrying member of Team Riley, and she has nothing but good things to say about him. "I love him," she gushed in a 2019 interview with the Daily Mail. "He is the most loving, supporting person I've seen. He helped her tremendously during the election." She added that, at the time, Ocasio-Cortez and Roberts had been together for a total of four years, after they rekindled the romance after a previous attempt in college. 

As for their future? Blanca has some hopes for the couple. "I know they love children, and they do very well with children from the family," she continued. "So, I hope they get married soon. Although they haven't told me anything about their plans." Only time will tell!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has her eye on the future

One of the first bills that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced in Congress was the aforementioned Green New Deal, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions, make buildings more energy efficient, reform current labor practices, and build smart power grids, as well as a host of other reforms that she believes will create a better future, according to CNN.

While some have called this proposal impossible, Ocasio-Cortez believes it's absolutely essential in order to ensure the health of humanity and the planet. "Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us," she shared in a 2019 interview with NPR. So while some call it impossible, she clearly thinks the bill could go even further.

While the bill isn't expected to pass, at least not anytime soon as of 2019, Ocasio-Cortez believes that it's already useful. "It could be part of a larger solution, but no one has actually scoped out what that larger solution would entail," she continued. "And so that's really what we're trying to accomplish with the Green New Deal." Who knows what the future may bring!