WASHINGTON – James Corden clearly believes "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
The West Coast talk show host made at trip to the East to present Anna Wintour with the Portrait of a Nation prize Sunday at the National Portrait Gallery. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jeff Bezos, Indra Nooyi and Frances Arnold were also recipients honored at the 2019 American Portrait Gala.
"The Late Late Show" host made his entrance donning a wig styled to match the Vogue editor in chief's chestnut, chin-length bob, sunglasses and a fur-trimmed coat.
"Anna Wintour has not had much impact on my life," he joked beneath Wintour's signature look, drawing laughs from the crowd. "I have never felt more powerful than walking backstage dressed like this. It's incredible. I'm walking, I'm like, 'Bezos, get me a coffee.' "
After removing his costume, Corden continued.
James Corden recalls confronting Ivanka Trump at a wedding: 'You can do something'
"It's an honor to be here," he said, telling the crowd he and Wintour first crossed paths in 2012, when he was acting in a Broadway play.
"She knew that my wife and I had moved to New York with our 1-year-old son, and she asked if there was anything I needed whilst I was in the city," Corden recalled. "I replied, 'I just need a friend.' And Anna said, 'I can do that.'
"So, the next day, somewhat cheekily I dropped her an email asking if we could become best friends," Corden continued. "And this set in motion, without question, one of the most rewarding and enriching friendships of my life."
Thinking of her career, the "Cats" actor added, "For over 40 years, she's devoted her life, her blood, her sweat and tears to the fashion industry, and you would be right in thinking it is the most elegant sweat in the world."
"I am beyond proud that the single most influential person in American fashion is an immigrant from the United Kingdom," he said, before upping his compliment, deeming her possibly "the most iconic, female immigrant since the Statue of Liberty herself."
So Miranda Priestly: Meryl Streep is co-chairing the 2020 Met Gala (with Emma Stone)
When it was her turn to step to the mic, Wintour took playful jabs at her pal.
"James, thank you for an introduction that can only be called unusual," she said. "I wouldn't dare say whether you or ('The Devil Wears Prada' star Meryl Streep) did it better, but I can say that I've never in my life felt so incredibly flattered and yet, at the same time, frightened."
Wintour also made a crack at her own expense.
"I want to thank the people at the National Portrait Gallery, the remarkable (director Kim Sajet) and her selection committee, for whatever lapse in their otherwise impeccable judgment led to me being here tonight."
Gayle King, who served as master of ceremonies, made note of the Wintour's playful demeanor, making a remark about the presence of her smile.
King herself induced smiles with her off-the-cuff commentary. The "CBS This Morning" anchor kicked off the night talking about her form-hugging Marc Bouwer dress.
"Do you guys know what it's like to sort of give up food for three days and you still can't fit into the dress?" she asked. "I have on so many Spanx tonight that I may need medical attention. And this is no joke, Joan Collins – this happened to her on the red carpet – she passed out because her dress was too tight. I know there are doctors in the house, so if I pass out, just discreetly drag me off the stage, cut them off, and I'll be all right."
Oprah Winfrey reveals her favorite things for 2019: Here are the most and least expensive items
Prior to the show, King talked to reporters about the dress she found it difficult to sit in. "I can't move," she said. "I can't eat a friggin' raisin."
King said she has been waiting to wear the red dress.
"I've had it for a couple years in the closet, couldn't get into it," she said. "I still can't, but I go, 'I'm wearing it today.' "
Meanwhile, former first lady Michelle Obama stunned in a chartreuse, stone-encrusted gown.
The "Becoming" author, on-hand to present Miranda with his award, wore her hair in curls.
She remembered "fangirling for Lin for years" after he performed at the White House in 2009.
Mentioning his voting advocacy, efforts to educate students and help restore Puerto Rico, Obama continued her praise. "Lin's energy is – to borrow a phrase – non-stop," she said. "And Lin doesn't just keep that energy all for himself. He projects his energy outward, raising our spirits, helping us feel a deeper connection with one another."
"I could not be more proud to present the Portrait of a Nation Prize to someone who has, in melody and rhyme and connection, painted as honest a portrait of our country as I have ever seen, one that we all can celebrate," Obama said in tribute.
Michelle Obama's new journal guides fans to write their own 'Becoming'
Miranda enlightened gala attendees as to what was going through his head while being snapped on top of photographer Mark Seliger's apartment roof in 2016 for Rolling Stone, an image which now housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
"I'm standing about five stories high, and behind me is the ground," he remembered of the photo in his "Hamilton" attire. "I am terrified. And every time there's a breeze, Mark Seliger is very happy, and he goes, 'We love the breeze. If you could just catch the coat on the breeze.' I go, 'If I catch the coat on the breeze, I'm flying off this roof.' "
"A snapshot does not tell you who we are," he added. "It's a moment, and what's amazing about the National Portrait Gallery is, it is moments upon moments of people who tell our story, and when I look at this moment, I know I'm scared, but I know if I keep a handle on the fear, we'll get a good picture, and I cannot believe that his hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, and that Michelle Obama's given me this award. My heart is so full."
Before the gala, Miranda shared with reporters how he scored such a presenter – by simply aiming high and asking.
"They said, 'Who's your dream presenter?' And that's my dream presenter, and my dream presenter said yes," he shared. "I owe her – from performing the first song at the White House in 2009, to her coming to see 'Hamilton' not on Broadway, but off-Broadway, at the Public Theater, which is, I think, unprecedented for a first lady.
"Presidents and first ladies go see Broadway shows, but they don't go downtown that much," Miranda continued. "That early advocacy, I can't ever repay her for that."
Rosario Dawson, Lin-Manuel Miranda help travelers rediscover Puerto Rico as tourism bounces back
'You're still running' from us: Michelle Obama warns against lasting issues with 'white flight'
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michelle Obama honors Lin-Manuel Miranda; Corden imitates Anna Wintour