NEW YORK— Caitlyn Jenner, one of the most talked about women in the world, accepted a Glamour woman of the year award on Monday, telling an admiring crowd that she believes she was put on Earth to tell her story and make a difference in the world.
Jenner, one of a group of honorees that included actress Reese Witherspoon, dancer Misty Copeland and designer Victoria Beckham, also said that, in case anyone was wondering, “I’m very happy to be living on the other side.”
She said that before she had come out as a woman, she stayed home most of the time. “Now,” she said to cheers, “I actually like going out, and being myself.”
Jenner described her journey to becoming a woman, and spoke of how she sat down with her children to discuss her plans to go public. She said she had realized that perhaps “this is why God put me on this earth, to tell my story … and make a difference in the world.”
Jenner is not the first transgender woman to be a Glamour Woman of the Year; last year, actress Laverne Cox was honored. Still, Jenner’s inclusion sparked some backlash on social media. “We prefer to focus on the positive,” Jenner said through a spokesman ahead of the announcement.
Cindi Leive, Glamour’s editor-in-chief, told The Associated Press that criticism of Jenner’s inclusion “certainly gives you an appreciation for the hostility to the trans community that still exists out there.”
The annual ceremony at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan mixes high-wattage celebrities with lesser known names, and this year, the award winners include five women touched by the South Carolina church massacre — Alana Simmons, Nadine Collier, Bethane Middleton-Brown, Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard — and lauded in the aftermath as “The Peacemakers of Charleston.” Also among those honored: Entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, Planned Parenthoood’s Cecile Richards and the victorious U.S. women’s soccer team.
Copeland, who became the first female African-American principal at American Ballet Theatre in June, took the opportunity to serve as a role model in accepting her award.
“Thank you for honoring a black ballerina.” To the young girls seated in the balcony from various schools and girls clubs, she said, “We’re trying to set the best example for you.”
Witherspoon gave the final speech of the night, speaking passionately about female ambition. “I believe ambition is not a dirty word,” she said.
Witherspoon co-founded a production company, Pacific Standard, which aims to make films featuring strong female lead roles as way to fight the gender gap in Hollywood. The company’s “Wild” and “Gone Girl” earned Oscar nominations for Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Rosamund Pike.
Witherspoon described her quest to give more actresses leading roles in films — “not the wife or the girlfriend, but the lead,” she said.
Among the achievements of some of this year’s other honorees: Victoria Beckham gained fame as a Spice Girl, but has since become a highly respected fashion designer.
The U.S. women’s soccer team handily defeated Japan to win the 2015 World Cup in July, and was recently welcomed at the White House by President Barack Obama.