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New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pretty tight-lipped about her private life, and her relationship with web developer fiancé Riley Roberts is low-key. It's so low-key, in fact, that you might not have known they were a couple. Or even that she had a boyfriend (ahem, me, I didn't know). So: Who is Riley Roberts, the private and fiercely supportive husband-to-be to one of the most up-and-coming politicians in the United States?
How did AOC and Riley meet?
A 2018 Vogue (opens in new tab) profile on Ocasio-Cortez described Roberts as an "easygoing redhead" and explains that he's been supportive of her for a long time:
Then there’s Roberts, whom Ocasio-Cortez met—“in true nerdy fashion,” she says—at a weekly Friday-afternoon conversation hosted by the dean at BU. He later moved from Arizona to be with her. When I first met him backstage at The Daily Show, he was casually citing tax rates in the 1950s.
At these Coffee & Conversations meetings at BU, according to Insider, Ocasio-Cortez often drove the sessions. A college friend told the publication that she would often end the meetings "with thoughtful conclusions that included 'her own twist' on the subject."
On the other hand, Roberts liked to keep quiet. "You could see him in the corner of the room really thinking through things," said a mutual college friend of the couple to Insider, who described him as "philosopher" type. Another friend said to Vanity Fair that in their liberal college bubble, “it becomes pretty easy for everyone to, basically, have the same thinking...That always bothered Riley.”
It's said that the couple was (and honestly still is) so low-key that some friends didn't even know they were together until several years after they had all graduated from college.
“I think people see how glamorous she is, but these were not two glamorous people...These were two awkward, supersmart, like-to-talk-about-issues kind of people that met through this super-wonky, nerdy thing," their friend Raul Fernandez told Vanity Fair. Of Roberts, he added: "When the camera is on her, he steps out of the way."
What does Riley do?
According to a now-defunct LinkedIn page, Roberts was head of marketing at HomeBinder.com, which helps people manage the maintenance on their homes. He also worked as a consultant to help tech startups grow revenue using marketing and development. He hails from Boston, Massachusetts, with a dual degree from Boston University.
Back in February, conservative podcast host Luke Thompson tweeted (opens in new tab) a picture of Roberts's email, claiming in the caption that the freshman representative was paying Roberts to be a member of her staff, "drawing a salary on the taxpayer's dime." Ocasio-Cortez hopped on social media to provide a reality check: "Actually this cal designation is a permission so he can have access to my Google Cal," replied (opens in new tab) Ocasio-Cortez. "Congressional spouses get Gcal access all the time. Next time check your facts before you tweet nonsense."
Did Riley attend AOC's swearing-in?
Yes! Roberts was there with Ocasio-Cortez's brother Gabriel (black suit and glasses) and her mother Blanca (who held the Bible for her daughter). Roberts is the tall, bearded gentleman at the far right who was literally beaming from ear to ear in support of his history-making girlfriend.
Roberts also gave his reactions briefly to the New York Post (opens in new tab): "A really incredible day, really special." He added that he liked Washington, D.C., thus far. "It’s great."
Has Roberts appeared on her social media?
Again, the couple is very quiet about their relationship, but on Ocasio-Cortez's Instagram announcement that she'd be running for Congress, he's the tall bearded fellow in the third image in the back (swipe through):
A post shared by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@aoc) (opens in new tab)
A photo posted by on
Ocasio-Cortez also mentioned him in a Twitter post where she took the GOP and media to task for going to Roberts' family's home looking for slanderous stories about her.
GOP have been losing their mind + frothing at the mouth all week, so this was just a matter of time.There is also a Daily Mail reporter (Ruth Styles) going to my boyfriend’s relative’s homes+offering them cash for “stories.”Women in leadership face more scrutiny. Period. https://t.co/KuHJ75sdMgJanuary 10, 2019
It doesn't look like Roberts has social media of his own, and he clearly has no issue staying quiet but supportive. Hilariously, sometimes Roberts gets mistaken as a volunteer (opens in new tab) instead of her partner.
He caught the internet's attention after appearing in Netflix's Knock Down the House. In the award-winning documentary (which follows the 2018 primary campaigns of Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin), many got a proper glimpse at the superstar progressive's leading man (at 0:35 in this video), and they were surprised enough by Roberts's look to take to Twitter to share their two cents.
Several comments about her boyfriend's aesthetic started rolling in post watching Knock Down the House, and one from political journalist Marie Le Conte started a mean, somewhat funny meme.
In a now-deleted tweet (opens in new tab), she wrote, "Apologies for the blatantly mean tweet but THIS is what AOC's boyfriend looks like? Incredible scenes, truly representing all the ambitious and stunning millennial women shackled to boyfriends who look like bin raccoons out there."
In the end, the couple had the last laugh; Ocasio-Cortez took it to her Instagram stories to say the jokes on Twitter inspired her boyfriend to get that post-election haircut.
"The internet roasted Riley into getting a haircut/glow-up after Knock Down the House," Ocasio-Cortez captioned the video of Roberts post-haircut.
Ocasio-Cortez explained on Twitter that because they were so busy with the election, the couple hadn't "gotten a haircut in months."
What has AOC's family said about Riley?
In perhaps the most Mom move I've ever witnessed, Ocasio-Cortez's mom Blanca gave a gushing interview in 2019 to the Daily Mail about how much she wants the pair to get engaged. (Because isn't that exactly what your mom would do if you were to become an overnight political superstar?)
"I love him. He is the most loving, supporting person I've seen. He helped her tremendously during the election," Blanca told the (opens in new tab)Daily Mail (opens in new tab). "They've been together for four years now, after they reconnected from a college breakup. I know they love children, and they do very well with children from the family. So, I hope they get married soon." She added—and I giggled at this part most of all—"Although they haven't told me anything about their plans."
Perhaps in a nod to why Ocasio-Cortez keeps her personal life private, Blanca added: "'I don't like the limelight for myself and my family. But it seems that God played quite a joke on me with this politics stuff."
What else do we know about Riley and AOC?
Ocasio-Cortez has mentioned that she's considered freezing her eggs. She got a dog “to force myself to not live and breathe work,” she told Vanity Fair. (opens in new tab) “I’m sitting here, I’m like, Do I freeze my eggs? Can I afford to do that?...My orthodontist was telling me about how she was doing IVF, and I’m, like, asking her what her experience is like.”
In the meantime, Ocasio-Cortez is happy with dog motherhood. Last January, she shared a short video of the little French bulldog she and Roberts had adopted, saying, "Hey boo boo! Hi, welcome to our family."
In May of 2022, Ocasio-Cortez confirmed that she and Roberts were engaged, telling Insider: "We got engaged last month in my family's hometown in Puerto Rico. No future details yet, we're taking some space to savor this time before diving into planning."
Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
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