“Hello…buenos días,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says, barefaced and beaming. Before embarking on her day-to-day duties—including everything from delivering impassioned speeches in the House chamber to launching an effort to increase voter registration in her local community—the Bronx-born representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District is taking Vogue through her skincare and signature red lip routine. “The reason why I think it’s so important to share these things is that, first of all, femininity has power, and in politics there is so much criticism and nitpicking about how women and femme people present ourselves,” she explains. “Just being a woman is quite politicised here in Washington…. There’s this really false idea that if you care about make-up or if your interests are in beauty and fashion, that that’s somehow frivolous. But I actually think these are some of the most substantive decisions that we make—and we make them every morning.”
For the congresswoman, it all starts with a simple but effective regimen. “I have not gotten much sleep last night at all,” she says. “Welcome to life in politics. We are trying to get people healthcare, making sure that they are taken care of in a pandemic, people are fighting too much, and so I have bags under my eyes.” She applies toner, vitamin C serum, a dollop of moisturiser, and a “generous” amount of SPF, rubbed onto her face—eyelids and ears included. PSA: “Don’t play games with sunscreen!”
Travelling between New York City, her home base and district, and DC, where she has to spend four days a week while Congress is in session, is, she notes, taxing—especially for her skin. To counteract all the wear and tear, she often sneaks in a stealth moisturising mask while on the train and makes sure to keep her cosmetics organised and packed in a compact case. “I love beauty, but also I try not to have a full beat every day,” she says. “Some days I choose to go in with a bare face, and other days when I want to feel glam, I do glam”—which is why she has two foundations for the job: Nars’s lightweight tinted moisturiser, which she brushes onto her complexion, and Estée Lauder’s long-lasting Double Wear finish, which can withstand even the most demanding schedules (not to mention a camera’s harsh glare).
“Our culture is so predicated on diminishing women and preying on our self-esteem, and so it’s quite a radical act—and it’s almost like a mini protest—to love yourself in a society that’s always telling you you’re not the right weight, you’re not the right colour, you’re not the right, you know, whatever it is,” she says. “When you stand up and say, ‘You know what? You don’t make that decision. I make that decision,’ it’s very powerful. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun,” she adds before picking up a colour corrector and a tube of concealer, which she blends into her skin with her fingers. “I learned this on my own and, as a millennial, through YouTube as well,” she says with a laugh.