The US First Lady Michelle Obama beat heads of state, chief executives and celebrities to be named the world’s most powerful woman by Forbes magazine.
She rose 39 places – and deposed Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor – in the rankings compiled by Forbes, the business magazine, which praised her formidable combination of style and political nous.
“A fashion icon and an athletic mother of two, she’s Jacqueline Kennedy with a law degree from Harvard and street sense from Chicago’s South Side,” the magazine said, adding that Mrs Obama “has made the office of First Lady her own.”
Since her husband’s election, Mrs Obama has embarked upon several campaigns of her own, including women’s rights and improved school nutrition.
“In a telling sign of her charisma, the White House is putting her on the campaign trail to headline fundraising events in battleground states like California and Colorado,” Forbes said.
“She’s also effective: In response to her Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity, companies like Coca-Cola, Kellogg and General Mills have pledged to reduce the calorie content of their foods by 2015,” it said.
Kraft Foods Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld, who led a hostile $18 billion takeover of Britain’s Cadbury, came 2nd in the magazine’s annual list. Oprah Winfrey, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” host and medial mogul, was 3rd, followed by Angela Merkel, who has topped the list for the past four years.
Hillary Clinton was 5th, praised for bringing “star power” to the State Department, although Forbes noted that she has so far failed in the “impossible dream” of brokering Middle East peace.
Showbusiness figures are encroaching on the list traditionally occupied by business leaders. Lady Gaga, the attention-grabbing singer, was in 7th place behind PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi and one place ahead of Australian banking chief Gail Kelly.
Lady GaGa moved from the Top 40 to the Forbes’ top 10 thanks to the introduction of a new process in ranking the world’s 100 most powerful women – less on wealth and power and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship.
Beyoncé Knowles, the pop singer, was 9th, while the top 10 was rounded out by Ellen DeGeneres, the talk show host and former American Idol judge.
Other bold-faced names in the top 100 include Sarah Palin (No. 16), Angelina Jolie (21), Arianna Huffington (28), Chelsea Handler (33), and Heidi Klum (39).
There are also three news anchors: CBS’ Katie Couric (22), MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (50) and ABC’s Christiane Amanpour. And there are two sisters: Tennis stars Serena (55) and Venus Williams (60).
Moira Forbes, vice president and publisher of ForbesWoman, said: “The women in our list, through their respective realms of power and influence, are shaping many of the agenda-setting conversations of our day, and have become dynamic catalysts for driving meaningful change across the world.”
She continued: “They have built companies and brands, sometimes by non-traditional means, and they have broken through gender barriers in areas of commerce, politics, sports and media and cultural zeitgeist, thereby affecting the lives of millions, sometimes billions, of people.”
By coincidence, Barack Obama addressed a summit of female business leaders in Washington on Tuesday night. He told the audience: “I’m just thrilled to be here with some of the most brilliant, accomplished, influential women in this country. As Michelle Obama’s husband, I feel very much at home.”