NEW YORK (AP) - Constance McMillen was having a pretty amazing night. The 18-year-old from Jackson, Miss., had been just introduced to Julia Roberts. Singer Fergie had praised her in a speech, then sought her out to personally greet her.
And oh, yes, she had also stood onstage at Carnegie Hall, in front of a crowd filled with celebrities and even world leaders, accepting a Glamour Woman of the Year award for having waged a public fight against a school district that banned her from bringing her lesbian partner to the school prom _ or wearing a tuxedo.
"This is really awesome," she said at a dinner party following Monday's awards ceremony, standing in bare feet because her shoes hurt, dressed in a tux specially made for her by designer Isaac Mizrahi.
The moment was typical of the 20th annual Glamour awards, which honors both the famous _ movie stars, fashion designers, athletes and politicians _ and also the not-as-famous, like McMillen or Hawa Abdi, a Somali doctor who has provided food and care for tens of thousands of people displaced by violence in that African nation. Or Katie Spotz, 22, who rowed solo across the Atlantic this year to raise awareness about the need for clean drinking water.
The big names Monday included the presenters: Janet Jackson, Kate Hudson, Hillary Swank, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and even Oprah Winfrey were all there to hand out trophies, curiously shaped red circular sculptures that had Roberts wondering aloud if they could be used as a brooch, or maybe a huge hairclip.
Cher, receiving a lifetime achievement award, spoke directly to the many girls and young women in the audience _ from organizations like Manhattan's Lower Eastside Girls Club _ about failure, and not giving up.
"I've had huge losses," said the 64-year-old actress and singer. "It just makes me keep going." And the word "No," she said, to cheers, is "just some (expletive) word somebody made up."
Also honored were three athletes: Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, soccer star Mia Hamm, and Lisa Leslie of WNBA basketball. Hamm told the girls present that whatever they do, "Play hard, because you're worth it and you have value."
Vonn said later she was awed to be around so many other famous women. "It's crazy," she said at the dinner. "I am so honored." She was especially thrilled to meet Roberts, with whom she took a photo.
Roberts was praised for her work with Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang camp, and on behalf of those with Rett Syndrome, a nervous disorder. "I've been blessed so many times over," said the Oscar-winning actress, "that someone's been cheated, and I apologize."
On a lighter note, she also advised girls not to tuck their hair behind their ears. "It never looks good," she admonished.
Among the more glamorous honorees was Jordan's Queen Rania, a longtime advocate of equal access to education for girls throughout the Middle East. "This is for the girls," said the queen, dressed in a shimmering silvery gown, as she was handed her award by Huffington Post editor Arianna Huffington _ who praised her for being a thoroughly modern monarch, with 1.3 million followers on Twitter.
The show opened with a musical performance by Janelle Monae, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter with the fashionably quirky pompadour hairstyle and tuxedo-like costume, complete with saddle shoes and a black cape.
Almost as dramatically dressed was two-time Oscar winner Swank, clad in a pewter-colored Versace gown with a bodice of gold netting to present an award to her designer friend Donatella Versace.
Swank called out a surprise co-presenter: Jackson, who spoke of the painful experience she shared with Versace _ losing a famous brother (Gianni Versace was murdered in 1997.) "We both lost our brothers and our favorite collaborators much too soon," Jackson said, adding how Donatella Versace had helped her after Michael Jackson's death by dressing her family for the funeral.
Fergie, in a bright red, one-shouldered number, teared up when handed her award by friend Kate Hudson _ and paid a touching tribute to her mother. She also didn't forget to thank her therapist, and closed with the 1970s rallying cry: "We are women, hear us roar!"
One of the most popular lines of the evening, though, came from the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, one of four female heads of state who were introduced by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In a video presentation about the reasons women are effective leaders, she said, to cheers: "We don't start wars. We stop them."
Both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared via video message, but their daughter, Chelsea, was at the ceremony, introducing 20 young women in the audience with their own accomplishments _ including one who'd designed a spacecraft navigating system.
But not only women were featured. An emotional high point was an appearance by Jake Glaser, son of early AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser, who received a Glamour award two years before her 1994 death from the disease, which she contracted from a blood transfusion during the birth of her first child. She passed the HIV virus on to both her children, and daughter Ariel died at age 7. Jake, now 26, remains healthy.
"I am proud to live with her legacy," Jake said of his mother.