NEW YORK — Even for a venue as grand as New York’s Carnegie Hall, there was a dazzling concentration of star power at Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year awards.
Pop star Rihanna was there, in a body-hugging gown. Tennis star Serena Williams was in a bright red, one-shoulder number. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were presenters; so were Katie Couric and former President Bill Clinton. And there were not one but three Beatle wives.
But the biggest ovation at Monday’s ceremony went to 81-year-old poet Maya Angelou, whose soaring words on the power of womanhood brought many to tears.
Women, Angelou told the crowd in her speech, “are rainbows in the clouds.”
“I am grateful to be a woman,” said Angelou, who won the lifetime achievement award. “I must have done something great in another life.” As for the men: “You have to write your own poem,” the poet said to laughter.
The annual Glamour Women of the Year awards honor a group of eclectic women, and this year was no exception.
One of the evening’s most emotional moments was the award to pediatrician Jane Aronson, who works to better the lives of orphans overseas and founded the Worldwide Orphans Foundation. She was in tears after Couric introduced her, even more so when surprised onstage by a group of her “kids,” children from foreign countries, now adopted by American families.
She got a standing ovation, as did the Iranian women of the One Million Signatures Campaign, introduced by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. The women are working toward gender equality in Iran.
Model Iman, who presented Rihanna’s award, referred to the singer’s ordeal this year, when she was assaulted by boyfriend and fellow singer Chris Brown. Rihanna initially returned to Brown but said that she regrets it, because it sent the wrong message to her fans. Brown has pleaded guilty to felony assault.
Iman noted that Rihanna would serve as a role model to victims of domestic violence.
Other honorees were Laura Ling and Euna Lee, U.S. TV journalists who were arrested in North Korea and sentenced to 12 years hard labor after briefly crossing the border from China. They were pardoned in August.
Also honored was fashion designer Stella McCartney. Her dad, Paul McCartney, wasn’t there, but three Beatle wives presented her award: Yoko Ono, widow of John Lennon; Olivia Harrison, widow of George; and Ringo Starr’s wife, Barbara Starkey.
Tyra Banks presented the award to athlete Serena Williams, who addressed young women: “You can do whatever you want to do. The most important belief is self-belief.”
Maria Shriver was honored for work on women’s issues, among other things. California’s first lady produced a documentary this year on Alzheimer’s, which afflicts her father, Sargent Shriver.
Winner Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., also was lauded via video by President Barack Obama.
Another winner was Marissa Mayer, the first female engineer at Google and now a company vice president.
Winning actress Amy Poehler’s advice to young women in the crowd, which included Girl Scouts: “Girls, if boys say something that’s not funny, you don’t have to laugh.”