LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oprah Winfrey wept tears of joy, Leonardo DiCaprio said he was proud to be an American and several hip-hop music stars said Sen. Barack Obama’s election as the first black U.S. president fulfilled the dreams of America’s youth.
Celebrities played a large, and sometimes controversial, role in Obama’s election campaign, organizing fund-raisers, performing at rallies and campaigning on his behalf.
Republican candidate John McCain used Obama’s popularity with actors and musicians during the campaign to mock the Illinois senator as little more than a celebrity himself.
But when Obama was declared president-elect on Tuesday, his A-list supporters spoke out again.
DiCaprio, in Rome for the Italian premiere of his movie “Body of Lies”, told reporters on Wednesday he had stayed up all night watching the election.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my country right now and proud of being an American ... I feel overwhelmed and I feel a tremendous weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” the “Titanic” star said.
Talk-show host Winfrey, one of America’s most influential women, campaigned with Obama last year. On Tuesday night, millions of TV viewers saw her in tears among the tens of thousands gathered in Chicago for Obama’s victory speech.
“It feels like America did the right thing,” Winfrey told CNN. “It feels like there’s a shift in consciousness. It feels like something really big and bold has happened here, like nothing ever in our lifetimes did we expect this to happen.”
Hip-hop music and fashion mogul Russell Simmons said Obama’s election was “a clear reflection of hip-hop politics.”
“While many older Americans, who marched and struggled so hard so Senator Obama could run for president of the United States never dared to believe in his candidacy’s real potential, young people, particularly the hip-hop community, had faith and their imagination became our reality,” Simmons said in a statement.
R&B singer Usher told Access Hollywood, “Barack Obama doesn’t represent a color. He represents change.” Black music producer and singer Sean Diddy Combs said, “I felt like my vote was the vote that put him into office ... And that may not be true but that’s how much power it felt like I had.”
People magazine, typically a place to read about Hollywood stars such as Katie Holmes and Britney Spears, put Obama on its front cover in a special edition marking his election.
Actor George Clooney said in a statement it was “time to begin unifying the country so we can take on the extraordinary challenges that this generation faces.”
And poet Maya Angelou, 80, author of the influential book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, said she could barely talk without weeping as she remembered all the African-Americans who had struggled for civil rights in the past.
“We are growing up. My God, I‘m so grateful,” Angelou told “The Early Show” on CBS.
“We have elected a black man to talk for us, to speak for us. We, blacks, whites, Asians, Spanish-speaking, Native Americans, we have done it.”
Additional reporting by Mark Egan, Claudia Parsons, Steve Gorman, Phil Stewart; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Frances Kerry