Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the subtle art of looking 'well put together'

The young Congresswoman has perfected a polished and poised appearance for the office, whether it's virtual or not

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attending the SXSW Conference and Festival in Texas in March, 2019 Credit: Samantha Burkardt/Getty

There are few politicians known by their initials, but AOC is one: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young Congresswoman from New York, who spoke on the second night of the virtual Democratic National Convention on Tuesday this week

Described by Time magazine as the second most talked-about politician in America (I think you can guess the first), the 30 year-old has sparked passion in many jaded young Americans looking for - in their view - a refreshingly progressive voice in politics. Whether you agree with her politics or not, some of Ocasio-Cortez’s power is in how she presents herself as a person in the public eye.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during the second night of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, August 18 Credit: AP

Of course, we can’t reduce her profession simply to the importance of her make-up ‘style’, but her brilliantly polished exterior has certainly played a part in her success as a politician. Ocasio-Cortez shows that by wearing make-up and making the best of your features doesn’t make anyone any less of a professional. 

So what can we learn from her work-appropriate make-up, whether it's in the office or over a virtual call? Well, for starters, it’s about making skin look like skin, but a more polished version. It looks like Ocasio-Cortez has used a full coverage semi-matte foundation, which will provide lasting power on the skin (and, importantly, not melting under hot studio lights). 

The new Ultra Le Teint Foundation by Chanel, £40, is the perfect liquid texture to provide buildable coverage. Buff in one pump from the nose outwards, and apply more if you feel you need it. Concealer is key, too, particularly if you need to cheat a full eight hours sleep. Try the Stretch Concealer by Glossier, £15

Stretch Concealer by Glossier

The back-pocket secret tool to polished looking skin, in my opinion, is a good bronzer. The thing with bronzer is if you can see it, and it looks detectable, you’re applying it wrong. Ocasio-Cortez has used it in the way most make-up artists do: in a halo effect around the face, adding warmth to the skin across the hairline, along the cheekbones and under the jawline. For a fail-safe bronzer that comes in many different shades, try the Sunlit Bronzers by Becca Cosmetics, £27 (the shade Capri Coast is my favourite). 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking with a voter in New York in June this year. Credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP

As for her eye make-up, Ocasio-Cortez has never shied away from liquid eyeliner - and proves that even in the workplace, it can look polished and professional. She’s applied a subtle line along her top lash-line, followed by a coat of mascara to bring definition to her eyes without being too dramatic. The Mad Eyes Felt-Tip Eyeliner by Guerlain, £31, is a inky-black felt tip liner that’s much easier to use than true liquid eyeliners (which need an expert eye, and hand). The brand’s mascara is also great.   

Just a quick point on brows, too: Ocasio-Cortez has brushed up her brows and lightly filled them in, most likely with a fibre brow gel. The Brow Build Gel by BBB London, £21, is genius. It fixes eyebrow hairs in place all day, without depositing too much product.  

Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk by Charlotte Tilbury

Red lipstick has quickly become Ocasio-Cortez’s signature shade of choice, however for the Democratic National Convention she opted for a pinky-beige neutral instead. Finding a right neutral shade for day-to-day wear used to be quite a challenge - all ‘nude’ shades tended to be a washed-out beige. But the pinky-beige tones, as seen on Ocasio-Cortez, is far more flattering. Charlotte Tilbury’s Matte Revolution lipstick in Pillow Talk, £25, is a best-selling shade for a reason. 

Ocasio-Cortez's appearance earlier this week showed a politician who takes pride in her appearance, using fail-safe quick tricks to look poised and polished. Of course, image isn't everything, but in American politics, it is important - and she has certainly mastered the art of looking 'well put together'.