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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Fans pin hopes on ‘avatar’ that is ‘not me’

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that her stratospheric rise in politics means people have been piling expectations on an “avatar” of her.

Speaking on The Intercept’s podcast, Ocasio-Cortez said that she went from being an unknown to being a recognizable political figure overnight when she won her Democratic primary in New York in July, and she had to remind herself that people were projecting their hopes on to a version of her.

“Even though I didn’t feel like a different person I felt this immense responsibility of all of these people’s hopes and dreams for our future,” she said.

“It is something that I grapple with a lot because I know it’s not me. It’s like this avatar of me.

“But I still feel a responsibility to do the best that I can.”

Read time: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Chellie Pingree call out Google, Microsoft, and Facebook for sponsoring a conference promoting climate denial

Ocasio-Cortez said that the time after her groundbreaking primary win, where she beat a high-profile, 10-term incumbent, was the “most stressful time” of her political career so far.

“Like literally overnight I went from no one caring who I was unless I was swiping my MetroCard too slow, to everyone being like ‘who is she, what is this?’ — all these cameras all over the place.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walks onto the Senate floor on Thursday.
Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“It was just a completely alien change. I was extremely stressed out because it felt like everything I said had so much more weight overnight.”

She said that she noticed local people, her future constituents in New York’s 14th Congressional District, started to treat her differently.

“A couple of days after the primary I was in my neighborhood and I turned around this corner to get on the street and this woman saw me and just started crying, she just broke down crying.”

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But, despite this reaction, Ocasio-Cortez said she was not confident that she would win her House seat in November, even though she had won the primary in a seat that had not elected a Republican in years.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

“Everyone in the world thought that my general election was a sure thing except me. I did not think that my win in the general was a sure thing. Everyone around me was like ‘you’re crazy, you’re gonna be a landslide,’ and I was like ‘no it’s not.'”

She said she was “getting a lot of evidence on the ground that supported my feelings.”

Nonetheless, come November she won more than 70% of the vote, becoming the youngest-ever woman elected to Congress.

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