Power Players

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: When you only see 'white dudes' running the world, you think you need to act like one

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), speaks to reporters, after U.S. President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.
Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), speaks to reporters, after U.S. President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Whether it's her democratic socialist views, her age or her red lipstick, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez isn't like any other member of congress. And that's on purpose.

"I know when I was growing up, I didn't see any women like me in positions of leadership," Ocasio-Cortez, who is 29 and of Puerto Rican descent, told Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani in February. "And so when you're only seeing white dudes just like, running the world, you think you need to act like a white dude to run the world."

"The problem is that mold wasn't made for you," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And so even if you try the hardest at being that, you will not be as good as someone who is just that already."

"That's why I've tried really hard to authentically be myself while I'm here in this moment and in this position, because I want to show other people that there are other ways of being powerful in the world," Ocasio-Cortez told Saujani and an audience of young women of color who are coders at the New York Hall of Science.

For Ocasio-Cortez, being her authentic self includes everything from advocating for controversial ideas, like the Green New Deal, to wearing red lips "in a place where there aren't too many red lips," she told NowThis.

In January, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that her lipstick and signature hoop earrings are inspired by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Supreme Court, who like congresswoman, is from the Bronx, New York.

Sotomayor was reportedly advised to wear neutral-colored nail polish to her confirmation hearings to avoid scrutiny, which she did. However she purposefully wore her signature red nail polish to a White House celebration of her appointment, according to Latina magazine, as well as red and black semi-hoop earrings, "a beloved accessory among Latinas across America," according to the magazine.

"Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they're dressing like a Congresswoman," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

For Ocasio-Cortez, doing things her way is "really thrilling even though it can feel like you' re breaking a rule sometimes," she told NowThis.

"There were so few other people that I felt looked like me or had lived my path, and doing what I was doing, I felt like I had to carve out a way of doing this on my own that was authentically me," she said. "It's been scary and it's been exciting."

At the Girls Who Code event, Ocasio-Cortez said that being your authentic self has an impact on others and the future.

"One way that we can really change leadership is by being ourselves as we are," Ocasio-Cortez said to Saujani. "Because whether you're 15 or whether you're 50 or whether you're 100 years old, there's always people looking at you to try and figure out how to navigate their life."

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