2014 50 Most Beautiful

Gianelle Rivera
Gianelle Rivera
Monroe, Mich.
Relationship Status: 
Party Affiliation: 

There are moments when Gianelle Rivera can't even imagine that she's made it to Capitol Hill.

"Sometimes I can't believe I work for the U.S. Senate," she says while shaking her head and smiling.


The legislative aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is determined to make a legislative impact, focusing heavily on gender equality, poverty, women, children and families. But it’s also her perfectly powdered face and style that really make an impression: she often receives compliments from co-workers and friends on her makeup and outfits.

“I just enjoy fashion and beauty,” she says. “Our work is so serious and time-consuming — I love what I do, but it’s also a way for me to wind down.”

She describes her style as “classic, but spicy,” and says adding pops of color into an outfit is important because it can be very easy to slide into the black, gray and white spectrum that’s so typical of traditional Washington wardrobe.

“Of course you have to look professional every day at the Hill,” Rivera said. “But you can still look nice while doing it.”

For makeup novices, she suggests always carrying a pink or rosy lipstick because it can be used as both a blush and a lipstick color.

“Even if you’re just wearing your glasses,” she said, “it will brighten up your face. If you have nothing else on, at least have that. 

“Oh, and mascara,” she adds with a laugh.

But practicing her cosmetics skills isn’t the only thing the Michigan State grad does in her free time. Aside from bargain shopping and salsa dancing, she also volunteers with the D.C. chapter of HungryBrains, a program that tutors children of immigrant parents. Since Rivera grew up in an immigrant household as well — her father is from Puerto Rico and her mother came from Panama — she likes being a role model.

“I want them to know that they can have a job like mine one day too,” Rivera said.

Rivera was flattered when she received word of her 50 Most Beautiful nomination, but admits to being a little surprised as she felt she didn’t really match the overall look of previous winners. She’s excited to be a part of this year’s list, however, because she wants people who may have felt the same way she did — to know that they’re worthy too.

“For me especially,” she says, “being a woman of color, a Latina, a first-generation college graduate, the chubby girl. … I feel like I’m showing other people who might be the ‘other,’ whatever the ‘other’ might be, that people view you the same way as other people.”

She adds with a big grin, “They view you as beautiful.”

— Ashley Perks