What Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Did Before She Became A Congresswoman

In 2018, a young woman from New York named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez burst onto the political scene and into the American consciousness after a surprise upset win in a congressional primary. Ocasio-Cortez was barely out of her 20s when she managed to beat Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary, a 10-term incumbent with an enormous fundraising advantage over Ocasio-Cortez. She was the first person to even challenge him in a primary in 14 years.

In her victory speech that primary night, Ocasio-Cortez showed who she was and what she would stand for in Congress by saying, "This is not an end, this is the beginning. This is the beginning because the message that we sent the world tonight is that it's not OK to put donors before your community" (via Biography).

In November, when Ocasio-Cortez won her election in a mostly blue district that usually elects Democrats, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, riding in on a blue wave that elected more women to Congress than ever before. But how did this young woman from the Bronx become the woman now known as "AOC?"

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the dorky kid who wanted to change the world

Born in the Bronx, a New York City borough she now represents in Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent her younger years there and in neighboring Westchester County, where her parents moved when she was five. Coming of age during the Clinton presidency, she told Time Magazine that her entire generation soon became disillusioned by promises that were never kept. "An entire generation, which is now becoming one of the largest electorates in America, came of age and never saw American prosperity," she said. "I have never seen that, or experienced it, really, in my adult life."

She also described herself as the "dorky kid" who did science projects on the environment. By the time she got to Boston University, she was focused on changing the world, studying both economics and international relations (via Time). In the fall of 2008, her life and the world changed when her father died of cancer and America's financial systems began to collapse, leading the Ocasio-Cortez family into economic hardship like it did for so many others.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lives a reality check after college

When she graduated from a prestigious university with two prestigious degrees, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saw that her time spent studying and accumulating college loans didn't get her very far. She took a job at a nonprofit, but also had to work part-time as a bartender to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck through much of her 20s, according to Time. It was Senator Bernie Sanders' 2016 populist presidential campaign for president that opened her eyes to the world of politics as she went door to door for the man who promised economic equality.

Although he eventually lost the primary and the Democrats lost the general election, Ocasio-Cortez wasn't about to give up and traveled to Standing Rock in South Dakota to protest a new pipeline being built on indigenous land, according to her official congressional biography. She then knew she had to be the change she wanted to see, leading to her historic 2018 Congressional run and win.