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Aiken, Kimberly (1975- )

Image Courtesy of Miss America Organization


Kimberly Clarice Aiken Cockerham, Miss America, 1994, was the fifth black woman to win the  crown. Aiken was born on October 11, 1975 in Columbia, South Carolina to Charles and Valerie Aiken. At the time she won the crown, Aiken was only 18 years old and was the youngest Miss America since Tawny Godwin, Miss New York and Miss America 1976.  Godwin was also 18.  Aiken was also the first black woman from the South to win the crown.   She is the second African American winner to have later served as a judge in the pageant.

In contrast to a number of young women who spend their lives grooming for the title of Miss America, Aiken pursued other interests.  Her initial pageant goals were modest. She intended to represent her hometown and become Miss Columbia, South Carolina which she won in 1993.  Later that year she won the state pageant and afterwards competed in Atlantic City for the national crown.

During her reign as Miss America, Aiken made the plight of the homeless her platform. She worked closely with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity where she helped with the construction of homes across the nation.  She also visited homeless shelters and spoke before numerous organizations including the National Press Club in an effort to bring awareness to the issue. After her pageant reign ended Aiken has made numerous television appearances.  In 1994 she was recognized by People Magazine as one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World.”  

After graduating from New York University, Aiken pursued career in public accounting with the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP. She later left the firm to work full time as an image consultant and motivational speaker, inspiring audiences with her own personal experiences with overcoming adversity including undergoing brain surgery and the brief bout of depression that followed afterwards.  Aiken is a regular columnist for Pageantry Magazine.

Kimberly Aiken married Haven Cockerham, a marketing executive, and they are the parents of a son, Russell.  The family lives in New York City.

Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Millicent Reid, “Miss America Kimberly Aiken Talks About Coveted Crown,” People Magazine, May 9, 1994 , Vol.. 41, No. 17; Karima Haynes, “Miss America: From Vanessa Williams to Kimberly Aiken,” Ebony Magazine, January 1994; 


East Tennessee State University

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