Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Yes, congresswomen can care about their skin as well as their politics

In publishing her beauty routine to Instagram, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent an important message about self-care

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a Women's Unity Rally on January 19, 2019, in New York. AP
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a Women's Unity Rally on January 19, 2019, in New York. AP

Politician, activist, entrepreneur — and now beauty influencer. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez added yet another string to her already-impressive bow this week, after sharing her extensive beauty regime with her 2.1 million Instagram followers.

Following repeated requests for the Bronx-born Democrat to reveal the secrets behind her signature look (think clean skin and a swipe of red lipstick), the 29-year-old admitted she was “a science nerd” who had always enjoyed “the science of [beauty], reading about compounds and studies”.

While discussing everything from mental health to fashion in a video filmed for her social media platform, Ocasio-Cortez stated that skincare was a “straight-up hobby of mine” after being quizzed on how she keeps her complexion clear given her high-stress job.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman to ever be elected to US Congress. AP
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman to ever be elected to US Congress. AP

However, she didn't stop there. The representative, who became the youngest woman to serve in US Congress after beating Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in the November 2018 election, later dropped a breakdown of her entire routine on Instagram Stories.

Avoiding naming particular brands as to not be "product-placementy”, the politician — often known as AOC - listed her "K-beauty" inspired regimen. From why she double cleanses to how she layers her products for the most effective result, Ocasio-Cortez offered a comprehensive yet accessible step-by-step guide to maintaining healthy skin.

However, the thorough post contained a deeper lesson than just how the congresswoman gets ready in the morning. In an era when we're working longer hours than ever (according to a 2016 study by the Smith Institute), and levels of stress and anxiety are rising worldwide according to numerous polls, do not undervalue the importance of self-care.

For too long have we felt an unnecessary sense of guilt of shame for indulging our own needs and prioritising mental health, a stigma AOC has fought against since winning her seat. “My mother was a housekeeper and worked herself to the bone so that I could go to college. She denied herself a lot — so I feel a lot of guilt thinking about taking a day off," she said in an Instagram post last month, revealing she would take a week off over Christmas. "It’s not OK that women subconsciously perpetuate unequal burdens for generations, just because we’re made to feel guilty if we don’t. Notice how much of this guilt is self-reinforced and internalised via social norms.”

Ocasio-Cortez also opened up about how her role has impacted her well-being, revealing her healthy lifestyle dissipated as her campaign ramped up last year. "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. We live in a culture where that kind of lifestyle is subtly celebrated as ‘working hard,’ but I [will] be the first to tell you it’s not cute and makes your life harder [in] the end.

It's that transparency, that refreshing candour, that innate 'realness' that has seen the politician's popularity soar. As happy to talk about what's in her bathroom cabinet as why climate change is the "single biggest national security threat for the United States", AOC is breaking down the stigma around self-care, one Instagram post at a time.

After all, we live in a time when female leaders are still pilloried for their beauty routines — in June 2017, Theresa May was lambasted for her "thick" make-up by BBC reporter Nick Robinson — so kudos should be given to Ocasio-Cortez for presenting the issue of beauty as weighty as any other.

Indeed, for some, myself included, the multi-billion-dollar industry has provided an escape route on the darkest of days — a swipe of lipstick to brighten a cloud of sadness, a touch of concealer to cover up the deepest insecurities.

In a world where an interest in skincare and make-up can be dismissed as a feminine frivolity, a trifle, a triviality, AOC's unapologetic and educated appreciation of the power of a good serum helps cement the importance of self-care, no matter your job title.

Not afraid to be denounced as superficial — even though everything from her clothing to her dancing has been ridiculed in the US press — Ocasio-Cortez continues to prove you can work hard while working a liquid lip.

Updated: January 30, 2019 06:13 PM