Meet Kimberly Aiken, the fifth black woman to win Miss America in the 1990s

Stephen Nartey March 14, 2023
Kimberley Aiken/Photo credit: pageant planet

Kimberly Clarice Aiken Cockerham was just 18 years old when she won the coveted crown for Miss America in 1994; becoming the fifth African American to grab the esteemed title and the youngest to have won the prestigious pageant since Tawny Godwin won Miss America in 1976 at the age of 18. Kimberly was also the first black woman from the south to win the crown, but the second to rise to become a judge in the pageant.

Her journey to the high stage, unlike other girls who planned for the title, was unplanned. Kimberly once watched the pageant on her television on campus and suddenly thought of participating in the pageant someday. She then won on her first try, which explains her modest expectations when she appeared before the judges. It was a simple goal of representing her home region and becoming Miss Colombia, South Carolina, which she won in 1993, according to black past. Following her delightful feat, she was adjudged one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World” by People Magazine in 1994

When she won the crown, she chose a rather uncommon agenda for her advocacy; focusing on the plight of the homeless, and collaborated with organizations such as habitat for Humanity to build many shelters for the homeless across states. She later roped in many agencies to give voice to the dilemma of the homeless in the United States. Her selfless advocacy galvanized a national conversation about homelessness and offered better insight into the predicament of the homeless.

Born on October 11, 1974, in Columbia, South Carolina, to Valerie and Charles Aiken, Kimberly had to bravely undergo brain surgery at the tender age of 11 to treat a rare birth defect that could adversely affect her future if left untreated. Her parents operated “Health Force,” the family business, which provided nurses to nursing homes, while her grandfather operated a convalescent home and catering business.  

She took on other roles including appearances on television and ad campaigns when her reign as Miss American came to a close, and capitalized on her popularity and oratory skills to inspire people. She is a celebrated vocalist who used her voice to her advantage in numerous television appearances, according to Pageant planet.

Kimberly’s life did not only center on her fame, she also invested in her education. When she completed New York University, she worked with the accounting firm, Ernst & Young LLP, one of the big accounting firms in America. She is now into image consulting, helping to groom models for pageant interviews, and is a regular columnist for pageantry magazine. This is honed from her decade of experience in entertaining and motivating her audience using her personal stories. She is married to haven Cockerham and has two children.

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