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Miss Navajo Nation becomes Best Female Artist

Radmilla Cody


Last updated 10/5/2017 at 2:54pm

K.B. Schaller

Radmilla Cody was 1997 Miss Navajo, has won awards for her music, and is an advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Miss Navajo Nation 1997-1998

*Native American Music Awards Best Female Artist

*Advocate for victims of domestic violence

Radmilla Cody was born on the rural Navajo Reservation. She was reared by her Navajo, maternal grandmother, Dorothy, who taught her to speak the Navajo language. Even though Dorothy discouraged her granddaughter from speaking English, Radmilla became fluent in both languages. Grandmother Dorothy also taught her to card and spin wool.

Cody always wanted to be a singer; however she was required to herd sheep both on foot and on horseback as part of her daily chores, and she spent long hours alone. During these times Radmilla was free to practice her singing before her first audience: herds of sheep and goats.

Her childhood idols were Whitney Houston and Diana Ross, but Radmilla was also influenced by her grandfather's Navajo songs and by the choirs when her Christian grandmother took her to church.

When time came for the 1997 Miss Navajo competition to begin, one of the requirements for contestants was fluency in the Navajo Language. This language skill was more strongly stressed than that of mainstream beauty pageants, which focus primarily on physical appearance.

A model of striking beauty, Radmilla decided to enter the pageant. She excelled in all the required areas and was awarded the title of Miss Navajo Nation. Because she is of both Navajo and African-American heritage (her father is African American), Radmilla's selection stirred controversy. But her Navajo mother Margaret taught Radmilla to embrace both sides of her heritage. From her experiences as a multiracial person, Radmilla Cody desires to be a role model for other children of multiracial heritage who are targets of prejudice.

After her reign as Miss Navajo ended, Cody focused on her career as a recording artist, singing both traditional songs and others composed by her uncle Herman Cody. Her recordings of children's songs that help to preserve the Navajo culture are highly appreciated by Navajo elders.

As her career progressed, Radmilla won the Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist (2002). She also honored John Herrington-the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to fly into space-by singing the Star Spangled Banner in Navajo at the Kennedy Space Center.

But in 2003, Cody's life spiraled downward, and she was incarcerated for a time for wiring money to a boyfriend, who spent it on illegal activities. When her sentence ended, she went on to become an activist against domestic and teen dating violence. Radmilla Cody has further earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations, pursued a graduate degree in sociology and continues her music, which she calls "my medicine."

Cody's recordings include Within the Four Directions (2000); Seed of Life (2002) won her a Native American Music Award as Best Female Artist; Spirit of a Woman (2005); Precious Friends (2007). In 2010 Radmilla was selected as one of the 50 Great Voices featured on National Public Radio's series of international singers.

In 2011, Radmilla garnered the Record of the Year Award for Shi Keyah, Songs for the People.

"The Creator has given me the strength to look forward in life, to embrace the beautiful and the positive," Radmilla states.


Allen, Lee, Grammy Nominee Radmilla Cody up for three Native American Music Awards, Indian Country Today Media Network, May 7, 2013

Cordova, Randy, "Musician Radmilla Cody's life is a rich tapestry," The Republic,, February 8, 2012.

EMusic website, Radmilla Cody

Official Homepage of Radmilla Cody

Welcome to NAMA Live website, Radmilla Cody

Wikipedia, Radmilla Cody

A version of the above article appears in 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World by K.B. Schaller, winner, International Book Award, women's issues category. Available through, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and other book sellers.

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