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Michelle Obama tops Forbes list of powerful women

WASHINGTON, Oct 7 – US First Lady Michelle Obama shot up 40 places on this year\’s Forbes magazine list of powerful women to claim the top spot, replacing German leader Angela Merkel.

Obama\’s new ranking ends Merkel\’s four-year reign at the top of the magazine\’s listing of the most influential women in the world.

Her quick track up the list was mirrored by that of her husband\’s former rival and now secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who moved up from 36th place last year to crack the top 10, taking fifth place.

Merkel, who is struggling with a rocky second term in office, was relegated to fourth place behind Kraft Foods CEO Irene Rosenfeld and talkshow host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

In compiling this year\’s list, the magazine said it opted to "look up and out into the broader culture."

"Our assessment is based less on traditional titles and roles and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship."

That might explain why singers Lady Gaga and Beyonce Knowles also made the top ten, at seventh and ninth places respectively, along with openly lesbian US talkshow host Ellen Degeneres, who took tenth place.

At number six was Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo\’s chief executive and a perennial inclusion on the list, who fell three places from last year\’s rankings.

Rounding out the top ten was Gail Kelly, chief executive of WestPac, who came in at number eight this year.

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Despite holding no official position, Forbes said Michelle Obama had proved "a true change-maker since taking lodge in the White House in 2008," citing her "Let\’s Move!" campaign aimed at reducing childhood obesity.

"The first African-American in the post, she\’s changed the face of the office (literally), and with consistently high approval ratings, she\’s given a new generation of girls and women around the world a role model," the magazine said.

Female US politicians took top spots in this year\’s list, with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in at number 11 and Republican former Alaska governor Sarah Palin making number 16.

Female US Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor (19), Elena Kagan (25) and Ruth Bader Ginsberg (31) made appearances, as did British Queen Elizabeth II (41), athlete Serena Williams (55) and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla (83).

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