Published on January 24, 2013 by Amy
Radmilla A. Cody is a Navajo model, award-winning singer, and anti-domestic violence activist who was the 46th Miss Navajo from 1997 to 1998.
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As she was the first and thus far only Miss Navajo partially of African-American heritage, her nomination sparked considerable debate over Navajo identity.
Cody was born into the Tłʼááshchíʼí clan of the Navajo Nation; her father is African-American. She was raised in the rural areas of the Navajo Nation by her maternal grandmother, speaking Navajo. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio, Cody recalled an instance of her grandmother’s getting upset with her when she spoke English, which, according to her grandmother, was nothing but “walla walla walla.” Daily chores included the herding of sheep and occasional weaving. Cody later recalled that this time spent in relative solitude gave her time to practice her early singing skills with the “first audience being the sheep”, and the surrounding environment gave her an appreciation of the sounds of nature. Since her grandmother had converted to Christianity, another influence was Christian choirs visiting the local church.
In 1997, Cody participated in and won the Miss Navajo contest, an event for which extensive knowledge of Navajo traditions and fluency in the Navajo language are required, rather than the ideals of beauty promoted by Western beauty pageants. After her tenure, she began a career as recording artist.
Cody’s songs are a mix of traditional Navajo music and songs incorporating lyrics written by her uncle, Herman Cody. Her first album, entitled Within the Four Directions, which includes the Navajo version of The Star-Spangled Banner (“Dah Naatʼaʼí Sǫʼ bił Sinil”), appeared in 2000. She won the 2002 Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist for her album Seed of Life, and has since released two more collections, Spirit of a Woman and Precious Friends, in 2005 and 2007, respectively.
In 2002, Cody sang the Navajo version of The Star-Spangled Banner at the Kennedy Space Center as John Herrington became the first enrolled member of a Native American nation to fly into space.