Politics can be fairly polarizing. But in some ways, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (better known simply as AOC) is one of the most polarizing politicians of our time.
Some try to dismiss the New York Democratic congresswoman because of her youth. She’s the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, taking office at age 29 in 2019. Some of her critics worry whether she has had enough life experience to draft the legislation that common Americans need. In contrast, AOC’s biggest fans see her age as a benefit, believing elderly politicians have been insulated by wealth and power for far too long.
And then there is AOC’s former job as a bartender. Critics dismiss her work experience as making her unfit for Congress. Others believe it means she knows what it is like to try to carve out a living wage in these tough economic times.
Still, there is a lot about the controversial congresswoman that many don’t know, including her early life. Here are 28 rare photos of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that will change the way you see this politician.
Here’s a photo from AOC’s toddler years in the Bronx, where she spent the first five years of her life. Later, her family moved to the suburbs in Yorktown Heights.
Chances are AOC’s parents wanted her to stay still in this chair. But it didn’t take long for AOC to find some trouble to get into!
A loving father
Here we see a heartwarming photo of AOC as a child with her dad Sergio Ocasio. Sadly, he passed away from cancer in 2008 while AOC was in college. She ended up working as a waitress and bartender to help keep her mom’s home from foreclosure.
Even at a young age, AOC could be fairly intense when she focused on the task in front of her. Just look at the intensity of her gaze while she’s playing piano!
A preview of things to come? If only the fifth-grade AOC knew that her professional future would involve making a ton of important phone calls!
Student of science
AOC developed a love of science from a young age. But if this image is any indicator, she loves science fiction just as much as science itself.
AOC did well growing up in the suburbs of Yorktown. There was plenty of room in the yard to play in. She even had a shed that doubled as a clubhouse for her and her friends.
Here, we get a rare glimpse of AOC in seventh grade, just chilling out in her room at home.
A nerd at heart
With her love of video games, we already knew AOC was a bit of a nerd. But if you needed further proof, here is a photo of her from her senior year of high school explaining her science fair entry. She won second place in the International Science and Engineering Fair when she was just 17 years old!
Dance like nobody’s watching
This video of AOC dancing went viral! In 2010, AOC recorded this video with fellow Boston University students dancing to “Lisztomania” by Phoenix. It gained traction online after she was elected in 2018. Some criticized AOC for not behaving like a politician. Others thought it was fun to see an elected official acting like a regular college student.
Hanging with grandma
AOC enjoys a fairly close relationship with her grandmother in Puerto Rico. She has even mentioned her grandmother when discussing the need for humanitarian relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Trying to stay warm
AOC’s life has taken her to many places, both before and after becoming a politician. Fortunately, she knows how to dress the part when the weather is cold!
Many politicians are successful because they seem down-to-earth and accessible. And looking at photos of AOC driving with her buddies back in the day, we can see why so many people like her!
AOC’s camera-shy boyfriend
AOC is very aware that her political success is due in large part to her campaign staff. Here, we see her embracing her campaign volunteer Riley Roberts… who also happens to be her boyfriend!
Keeping a low profile
AOC and her boyfriend Riley met during their Boston University days. Things seem pretty serious between them, as they live together in Washington D.C. But AOC tries to keep pics of him to a minimum so that he can enjoy a more normal life.
Seeing ‘Little Women’
Here, AOC rocks a red carpet look attending the New York City premiere of Little Women in December 2019.
Knocking down the house
AOC was no stranger to red carpets by the time she attended Little Women. In March 2019, she attended the premiere of a documentary she starred in! Here she is at the Knock Down The House premiere during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas.
Assessing the border
But it’s not all glamorous movie premieres for AOC, and some days are harder than others. Here, she assesses miserable conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In February 2019, AOC spoke at a press conference on Capital Hill in Washington D.C., calling on Congress to defund border detention facilities. She wiped away tears after describing the death of a seven-year-old migrant.
Brought to tears again
In July 2019, AOC was brought to tears listening to testimony from immigrant Yazmin Juárez. Juárez described conditions at an ICE facility on the U.S.-Mexico border that caused the death of her 19-month-old daughter Mariee in May 2018.
At the Women’s March
AOC knows that she has become an important feminist icon. Perhaps because of this, she is all smiles during the 2019 Women’s March.
In 2019, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had to testify in front of Congress. And this pic of AOC shows exactly how much of what he had to say that she believes!
Lecturing college students
It’s entirely possible that AOC has a future as a college professor ahead of her. Here, we see her enthusiastically speaking to an excited crowd of students at Iowa Western Community College.
AOC ‘boldly goes’
When we say that AOC has friends in high places, that includes all of outer space! That is because she is supported by Kate Mulgrew, best known for her portrayal as Captain Janeway on Star Trek Voyager.
Serving the public
AOC is proud of her years of work in the service industry as a waitress and bartender. Here she is in May 2019 behind the bar at the Queensboro Restaurant on to raise awareness for the One Fair Wage campaign.
Like a boss
In this Vanity Fair photoshoot in October 2020, AOC is all business!
In the Bronx
Ultimately, AOC is a woman of the people. This photo from her October 2020 Vanity Fair photoshoot shows her with Bronx residents in her original borough, on the corner of Cruger and Bronxdale avenues.
Wearing a dazzling blue power suit, AOC is all smiles for Vanity Fair!