Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez On Fame: ‘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.”

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.”

Also on HuffPost

NSA Surveillance

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), left, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), center, exit the Senate floor after Paul spoke about surveillance legislation on Capitol Hill on May 31, 2015.

National Anthem

From left: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) place their hands over their hearts during the playing of the national anthem during a presentation ceremony for the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the American Fighter Aces' service to the United States at the U.S. Capitol on May 20, 2015. Congress honored the service of the pilots with the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow.

Remembering Officers

President Barack Obama (from left), Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson attend the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill on May 15, 2015.

Elton John

Singer Elton John (right), founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and Pastor Rick Warren (left) of the Saddleback Church, arrive to testify about global health programs during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 6, 2015.

Loretta Lynch Testimony

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (right) appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2015. The committee is hearing testimony on the Justice Department's budget request for fiscal year 2016.

Bernie Runs

U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) leaves after a news conference to speak on his agenda for America on Capitol Hill on April 30, 2015, after announcing he would run for U.S. president.

Japanese Prime Minister

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves before he addresses a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 2015.

Subway Smiles

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), second from left, smiles as he rides a Senate subway with a member of the press, left, after a vote April 23, 2015, to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general.

Hotdish Competition

Members of the Minnesota delegation taste each other's entries during the Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition on Capitol Hill on April 22, 2015. Hotdish is a meal similar to a casserole.

Advocating For Loretta Lynch

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks while flanked by members of the Congressional Black Caucus during a news conference on Capitol Hill on April 22, 2015. Pelosi urged the Senate to immediately confirm Loretta Lynch's nomination as attorney general.

Justice March

Henry Singleton of New York City holds up a sign as U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) speaks during a rally to mark the finish of March2Justice on April 21, 2015, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Dozens of marchers took part in an eight-day, 250-mile march from Staten Island, New York, to the nation's capital to demand congressional intervention to tackle "the national crisis of police violence."

Special Guest

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, second from left, speaks with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), second from right, as they pose for a photo alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), right, prior to a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 21, 2015.

Gyrocopter At The Capitol

Capitol Hill police officers and other officials lift a gyrocopter that landed on the U.S. Capitol's South Lawn, onto a trailer on April 15, 2015. A man identified as Doug Hughes, 61, illegally landed his aircraft on the Capitol lawn, triggering street closures around the building and prompting a police investigation. Hughes is described as a mailman, and a logo appearing to be that of the U.S. Postal Service was visible on the tail fin of the aircraft.

Secretary Of State Parade

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trailed by staff and security while departing a meeting with members of the U.S Senate on the proposed deal with Iran at the U.S. Capitol on April 14, 2015. Kerry met with members of the House and Senate to discuss the ongoing Iran nuclear negotiations.

Harry Reid's Retirement

A large abstract painting of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is visible on a wall next to a stuffed eagle in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 27, 2015. Reid recently announced he will not seek re-election to another term.

McCain Applauds

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) applauds the final comments from fellow committee member, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), as they conclude a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 26, 2015, to discuss the situation in Yemen. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is at right.

Ben Affleck

Actor, filmmaker and founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative Ben Affleck testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs hearing on "Diplomacy, Development, and National Security" on March 26, 2015. His wife, Jennifer Garner, looks on.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates testifies during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs hearing on "Diplomacy, Development, and National Security" on March 26, 2015.

Twin Tears

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, left, and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) wipe away tears after listening to the remarks of Nicklaus' son Jack Nicklaus II during the elder Nicklaus' Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on March 24, 2015. Nicklaus was lauded by family, friends and politicians for his many sports achievements and his philanthropy.

Affordable Care Act Anniversary

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lead the way down the House steps for the House Democratic Caucus media event to mark the fifth anniversary of President Barack Obama signing into law the Affordable Care Act on March 24, 2015.

Meerkat In The House

Conference aide SoRelle Wyckoff films a news conference in the Capitol after a meeting of the House Republican Conference using the live streaming app Meerkat on March 24, 2015.

Congressional Gold Medal

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, center, is presented the Congressional Gold Medal by, from left, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the Capitol Rotunda on March 24, 2015.

Secret Service Talks To Congress

Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in on March 19, 2015.

Spring Cleaning

Code Pink peace activists discuss a letter to Iran's leaders written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) outside his office in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 19, 2015. The group organized a "spring cleaning of Congress."

Supreme Women

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) right, prepares to take a picture in her Capitol office with Supreme Court Justices, from left, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, before a reception on March 18, 2015. The justices were in the Capitol to be honored at Pelosi's annual Women's History Month reception in Statuary Hall.

When Irish Ties Are Smilin'

From left: Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), President Barack Obama (D) and Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny depart the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon on Capitol Hill on St. Patrick's Day 2015.

Colonial Visit For Marijuana

Dressed in colonial garb, Adam Eidinger and fellow D.C. marijuana advocates visit the office staff of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 17, 2015, to protest the congressman's stand in regard to legalized marijuana in the District of Columbia. Legislative Director Amber Kirby Talley receives a pipe from Eidinger.

Goldendoodle

Shawna Blair, of the Senate Periodical Press Gallery, holds her dog George Clooney, a 4-month-old Goldendoodle, for Kate Hunter of Bloomberg News to pet in the Capitol's Senate Press Gallery on March 13, 2015.

Code Pink

Protesters from Code Pink hold up signs as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrive to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on March 11, 2015.

Cruz Waves

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighters Presidential Forum at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill on March 10, 2015.

Warren Talks

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighters Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill on March 9, 2015.

Speaking On Gun Control

Former astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former congresswoman and handgun violence survivor Gabby Giffords, is joined by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) for a news conference about background checks for gun purchases in the Canon House Office Building on March 4, 2015.

Selfie Time

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), shoots a video selfie as he heads to the House floor for votes on March 4, 2015.

Giffords' Voice

Former Congresswoman and handgun violence survivor Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) speaks during a news conference about background checks for gun purchases at the Canon House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 4, 2015.

Netanyahu Speaks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he steps to the lectern prior to speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) applaud.

Love HuffPost? Become a founding member of HuffPost Plus today.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.