Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez catapulted into the nation's consciousness this past summer after pulling off one of the most major election upsets in recent political history — and she's lived rent-free in all of our minds since then. Progressives adore her, right-wingers hate her, and everyone in between still follows her every movement.
As she prepares to take her place in Capitol Hill, the representative-elect has taken to Instagram Stories to give her constituents an unprecedented inside look into the congressional orientation and the transition process. To find out what makes Ocasio-Cortez so appealing to her followers, we talked to body language expert Patti Wood, author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma.
"Her gestures show that she's trustworthy and honest. When identifying integrity or deception in a statement, you look for when the gesture occurs. When someone is being authentic, they gesture just before or at the moment of their statement," Wood said, pointing out at how Ocasio-Cortez gestures to emphasize the key points of her platform during speeches and other talks. "She does that, over and over again. What happens in your primitive brain is that you trust, you believe, because it's in sync. It almost musical, it makes you feel good to watch her."
Wood also said that the way Ocasio-Cortez speaks (in the 29-year-old's own words, "like a girl from the block") also makes her constituency feel closer to her. "She often uses very casual or colloquial language like 'yeah,' which would identify her with her constituency and signals 'she's like us,'" Wood said. "Until recently that was unusual, but the Trump presidency changed that." And unlike other women lawmakers, who historically have exerted control over their expressions in an effort to avoid sexist criticism, Ocasio-Cortez is part of a crop of millennial lawmakers that don't shy away from tapping into their personalities.
That idea of connecting and being real seems to be one of the reasons why Ocasio-Cortez has given her followers a look into that Congress Life™ via her social media posts, specifically Instagram Stories. Wood said it was interesting that the congresswoman-elect has allowed her constituents a peek of different parts of her life. "She has allowed herself to be seen on different levels of attractiveness or formality. She doesn't have the need to brand [herself]," Wood said. "She's telling us 'I'm showing you who I am at all times.' It's interesting, because it's unusual. For most of celebrities, their brand is a mask for them. Ocasio-Cortez doesn't have that."
When asked about her overall impression of Ocasio-Cortez's body language, Wood said it was easy to understand why she has become a political rising star. "She feels strongly about particular issues. She's not faking her passion," Wood said. "And truly she doesn't seem to need a facade to have her confidence."