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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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