Ten Women We Admire

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  • Whether they’re an entertainer, an athlete or a politician, these women don’t just have extraordinary skills. They have guts, endurance and the ability to shrug off setbacks. What’s not to like?

    Hillary Clinton

    From the moment she stepped on the national stage with her husband, Hillary, 63, has been one of the most controversial figures in American politics. But she overcame her detractors to win a Senate seat in New York, and handled herself well even though she suffered a humiliating defeat in losing to Barack Obama. And now she seems like the quintessential good girl. She works hard and makes an effective - if quiet – showing as Secretary of State. Bonus: She can grow her hair at last, and she doesn’t have to deal much with Congress.
  • Helen Mirren Can a 66-year-old woman be a global sex symbol. Yes, if she’s Helen Mirren. She’s incredibly gorgeous, even in a bikini, and she’s a great actress besides. (Even when she’s in an “ugly” role, as she is in the hit movie “The Debt,” her charisma is unmistakable.) She doesn’t hesitate to say what she thinks, as in “I don’t have a maternal bone in my body.”
  • Angela Merkel As Chancellor of Germany, one of the few solvent European countries these days, Merkel, 57, has an unparalleled influence on the future of the continent’s economy. We like her for her competence and calmness – and for the fact that she probably drives French guys like Dominique Strauss Kahn nuts.
  • Oprah Winfrey When she ended her show earlier this year, Winfrey, 57, was unquestionably a TV superstar. Her incredible 25-year run, as well as her worldwide philanthropic efforts, set records that will probably never be matched. Now, though, she’s faced with a flagging television network of her own. But she’s still soldiering on, doing her best to transform it into a success. If anyone can do that, it’s Oprah!
  • Queen Elizabeth II Go ahead, laugh at her hats. The 85-year-old queen doesn’t care. One of the most unflappable people around, ER II knows what suits her, and she’s not deviating from it in the slightest. But she’ll adjust when necessary – witness her extraordinary effort in changing the royal family back from a 90s/00s laughingstock to a fairy-tale assembly as Kate married Wills.
  • JK Rowling By creating a fantastical world of magic, loyalty and friendship, Rowling, 46, drew in millions of kids around the world and helped them recognize the pleasure of reading. (A lot of adults went along for the ride, too.) Her personal story -- a mom on public assistance pursuing her dream – undoubtedly encouraged others to go for their own goals. And even if she never writes another word, the world will always have Hogwarts.
  • Billie Jean King The most influential women’s tennis player ever fought against obstacles that would have defeated women far less courageous. Not only was King, 67, a groundbreaking tennis player, the first to become a household name, but she also began the Women’s Sports Foundation. Most difficult of all, she came out of the closet at a time when being gay was much more controversial than it is now. And she’s been forthcoming about her eating disorder.
  • Meryl Streep Probably the best actress of our time (though she’d undoubtedly laugh gracefully at the compliment), Streep, 62, can make any role believable, from Isak Dinesen in “Out of Africa” to Ethel Rosenberg in “Angels in America.” Best of all, though, she’s not afraid to get giddy in fluff like “Mamma Mia!” and “It’s Complicated.”
  • Judge Judy In Judge Judy’s world, every situation is simple, and the answer to every question is yes or no. That probably accounts for her enormously popular daytime show. Over the past five years, Judy Sheindlin, 68, has drawn an audience that now numbers eight million (during the same time, Oprah’s audience dropped to 5 million). As she enters her sixteenth season, the judge, 68, who earns $42 million a year, shows no signs of letting up on her TV schedule—or losing her sense of humor. As she cheerfully acknowledged, even though she’s really popular, most of her male viewers are “just happy they’re not married to me.”
  • Sarah Palin Whether you love or hate the former vice-presidential candidate, Palin, 47, was the first conservative female politician to break into the national scene in recent years. Michelle Bachmann might not want to admit she should thank Palin. But the former Alaska governor’s spectacular speech at the 2008 Republican convention, and her subsequent mega-bestsellers, made the Tea Party acceptable to many women, and vice versa. Besides, she made eyeglasses hot!