Ocasio-Cortez: ‘Sometimes I just want to be a human being’

Few U.S. politicians have been thrust into the spotlight as suddenly as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). She went from a little-known 28-year-old bartender running against a well-connected incumbent to a national powerhouse whose every move is scrutinized. 

And it hasn’t always been easy. 

“Sometimes I just want to be a human being. And you don’t get to be a human any more,” she told HuffPost in an interview Tuesday. “Everything you do from wearing sweatpants to the bodega to getting a haircut ― every personal decision you make for yourself is never going to be yours any more.”

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about dealing with fame on Friday, in response to an emotional interview Meghan Markle gave on British television. The American-born duchess of Sussex revealed the toll that being in the public eye has taken on her in the immediate aftermath of her pregnancy, prompting Ocasio-Cortez to share something unrelated to politics with her 5.5 million Twitter followers.

“Sudden prominence is a very dehumanizing experience. There’s a part of your life that you lose, & it later dawns on you that you’ll never get it back,” she tweeted. “The people who treat you like a human make all the difference.”

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(Pt 2) Vulnerability is something I am proud of. In many ways, I see vulnerability as a coat of arms. A shield. After all, if we are unafraid to cry, to acknowledge our mistakes, to fall down and get back up, to offer a vision so ambitious that it makes the short-sighted laugh... if we are brave enough to be human in front of the whole world, then what can our detractors really do? What do we have to be afraid of when we lift our own veil? The answer is nothing. Nothing at all. . I am immensely proud of the women who made this film. It’s incredibly raw and explosively powerful - not because we are special, but because we aren’t. Because if we can do it, so can you.
🎶What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?/ Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song/ and I'll try not to sing out of key. / Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends / mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends 🎶 . This was one of my papa’s favorite songs. Before he passed away, he built a trellis for my mother by hand in our backyard. He wanted to inscribe this lyric around the edges, but never got the chance. I have always felt that this is a love song, but a love song for friendship. . This #internationalwomensday, I’m thinking about (and grateful for) sisterhood. At the heart of sisterhood, like so many meaningful relationships, is love. And to me, loving people isn’t about who you’re trying to be a “rockstar” in front of. Love is about who you’re unafraid to let see you sing out of tune. 🎤 . 📸: @rashidatlaib + @azizthefrenchie
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YEEERRRRRR 🙅🏿‍♂️🙅🏽‍♀️🙅🏽‍♂️ 🔥 Had a blast & honored to be the first guest on @shodesusandmero today! They also visited me in DC and gave a few housewarming gifts from home 🎁 just aired - check it out!
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We open doors so others can walk through them.
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Today’s the day. To the countless supporters, door-knockers, organizers, small-dollar donors, and everyone in between - thank you. . This journey has been one of the most challenging and rewarding collective efforts I’ve ever been a part of. We haven’t just run a campaign - we created a movement in our own backyard. We built community. We centered issues that no one wanted to talk about. We uplifted our neighbors and discovered a level courage + friendship we never thought possible. . Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey and followed us along to this moment. No matter what happens, this is just a beginning. Let’s continue walking shoulder-to-shoulder in the advancement of economic, social, + racial justice in the United States of America.
We’re back out there hitting the streets and connecting with the community for November - come swing by our Queens & Bronx offices to pitch in!
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. ☔️👧🏾: “I‘m going to vote for you!” 👩🏽‍💼: “Thank you so much! One day I will vote for you, too.” . . 📸: @not_youraveragedumpling
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Speechwriting on the 6 train.
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Fam bam 🙌🏽
Happy St. Pat’s for All Parade Day from Sunnyside, Queens! ☘️ . The St. Pat’s for All parade began as a demonstration for LGBTQ+ inclusion in St. Patrick’s Day festivities, when people originally tried to keep the LGBT community out of the parade (unfortunately, some NYC parades still do - which speaks to the work still left to be done). The Queens community wasn’t going to stand for that, and 20 years ago the community launched St. Pat’s for All, to celebrate Irish values of welcoming and inclusion to all people - no matter who you love or whatever your station in life may be. . Launched by Councilman Danny Dromm +activist Brendan Fay, St. Pat’s for All is a core tradition in NY14, and happens a bit before the citywide St. Patrick’s Day Parade. . 📸: @josealvarado
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Ocasio-Cortez told HuffPost that she spoke up about Markle’s challenges because she’s made her own traumatic leap into the media limelight.

“I feel an enormous amount of empathy for her, because it requires an enormous amount of tools to be resilient ― and also to stay human in that.”

“There’s a lot of people that are going to say ‘oh, boo-hoo,’ but I feel for her,” she said. “I really feel for her.”

Ocasio-Cortez said that the experience of rocketing into stardom after her June 2018 primary win was “right up there with my family almost getting foreclosed on ― one of the most stressful experiences ever,” comparing the experience to her family’s trouble holding onto their home after her father died when she was 18. 

Ocasio-Cortez thought that the constant media attention ― and recognition on the streets that has accompanied it ― would die down after the 2018 primary, or the general election, or after she was sworn in. But she’s since accepted that she won’t be able to enjoy the privacy she previously had, both because of the scrutiny she is under and the potential security threats she faces.

“You kind of grieve for that. It has its highs and it has its lows,” she said. “A lot of people look at the highs, but sometimes it feels like you got a tattoo on your face that you didn’t ask for. It’s hard. It’s very hard. Sometimes you just want to get a drink or eat a hamburger.”

At the same time, Ocasio-Cortez said she has to balance the need to protect herself with the need to be present for her constituents.

“I can’t afford to be hidden away. In order for me to do my job, I need to be connected to people,” she said. “My job is to love people. And that’s very difficult sometimes given the amount of barriers.”

Of course, Ocasio-Cortez’s particular experience is atypical for new members of Congress. She was a server and bartender in Manhattan when she beat Joseph Crowley, who had held the seat for two decades and was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. She went on to become the youngest-ever woman elected to Congress. Thanks to the circumstances of her victory and her gift for communication, Ocasio-Cortez has become a media superstar — adored by many liberals and obsessively, negatively covered by Fox News.

Ocasio-Cortez told HuffPost that her family and friends, particularly those who knew her before she was famous, help her stay “grounded.”

In particular, her friends from the restaurant industry “are the people that I enjoy spending time with, because they knew me when no one cared who I was,” she said. “They let me know if they think I’m wrong or if they want to ask me a question.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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