Photos: Nelson Mandela’s story through his encounters with celebrities and leaders

After she met Nelson Mandela at his 91st birthday party in 2009, Alfre Woodard, an American actress, told New York Magazine that she “was just trembling; not with fear, just with joy and energy.” She added: “I think I was levitating.”

Woodard is hardly the only star for whom meeting Mandela, the legendary South African activist and president who died today, was like a rite of passage. In the 23 years after his release from prison in 1990, Mandela embraced or shook hands with countless celebrities and world leaders, and judging by the photos of some of those encounters, he was a deeply venerated man—an icon among icons.

Some of the figures that appear beside Mandela have since passed away; others have simply faded from the public consciousness; and still others have become notorious. Taken together, the images tell the history of Mandela’s political career through the people he met. Through it all, Mandela remains Mandela.

1990

Released from prison in February

Ted Kennedy(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis(AP Photo/Peter Southwick)
George H. W. Bush(AP Photo/Doug Mills)
Margaret Thatcher(AP Photo/Cleaver)
Jesse Jackson(Frederick Watkins, Jr. / AP)

1991

A wax double at Madame Tussaud’s(AP Photo/Gill Allen)

1992

1993

1994

Elected president of South Africa in April

Whitney Houston(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)

1995

Pope John Paul II(AP Photo/John Moore)

1996

Sidney Poitier(AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
Michael Jackson(REUTERS)
The Dalai Lama(AP Photo/Sasa Kralj)
Tony Blair(REUTERS)

1997

Bill Cosby(REUTERS)
Princess Diana(REUTERS)
Barney(REUTERS)
Evander Holyfield(REUTERS)
Prince Charles, Scary Spice, and Ginger Spice(REUTERS)

1998

Bill Clinton(REUTERS)
Diana Ross(REUTERS)
Queen Elizabeth II(REUTERS)
Stevie Wonder(REUTERS)
Fidel Castro(REUTERS)
Tiger Woods(REUTERS)

1999

Leaves office in June

Boris Yeltsin(REUTERS)
Muammar Gaddafi(REUTERS)
Bill Gates(REUTERS)

2000

2001

Lennox Lewis(REUTERS)
Naomi Campbell(REUTERS)
Arnold Schwarzenegger(REUTERS)

2002

Michael Bloomberg, Robert De Niro, Hugh Grant(REUTERS/Mike Segar)
Bono(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
Oprah Winfrey(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)

2003

David Beckham(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
Beyonce Knowles(REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)

2004

Don King(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
Will Smith(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
Annie Lennox and Yusuf Islam(REUTERS/Matt Dunham)

2005

George W. Bush(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

2006

The Black Eyed Peas(AP Photo/Russel Roberts)

2007

2008

Oscar Pistorius(AP Images)

2009

2010

2011

Michelle Obama(AP / Nelson Mandela Foundation)

2012

Hillary Clinton(REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin)

2013

Dies in a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa

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