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Fri, 12.19.1975

Radmilla Cody, Model, and Singer born

Radmilla Cody

*This date in 1975 marks the birth of Radmilla Cody.  She is an African Native American (Navajo) model, singer, and activist. 

Radmilla A. Cody was born into the Tłʼááshchíʼí clan of the Navajo Nation. Her father is Black. She was raised in the rural areas of the Navajo Nation, AZ, NM, and Utah, by her maternal grandmother.  

Cody recalled an instance of her grandmother getting upset with her when she spoke English. Daily chores included the herding of sheep and 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 is required, rather than the ideals of beauty promoted by Western beauty pageants. After her tenure, she began a career as a recording artist.  In 1997, Cody became the 46th Miss Navajo and the first Miss Navajo of African American heritage.  This nomination sparked considerable debate over Navajo identity. After her tenure, allegations of drug trafficking and involvement in money laundering, resulting in her subsequent arrest and imprisonment, led to verbal racial attacks and support; she has since become an advocate and activist against domestic violence. 

Her songs mix traditional Navajo music and songs incorporating lyrics from 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"), was published in 2000. Later that year, she 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.  She also won the 2002 Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist for her album Seed of Life.   

Cody, in 2005 and 2007, released two more collections, Spirit of a Woman and Precious Friends, respectively. Her album is Shi Keyeh, or Songs for the People, released in 2011 and was nominated for Best Regional Roots Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards. Cody was the first Native American singer nominated in this new category, which followed the controversy of a standalone category for Native American music and Latin Jazz two years before this award ceremony.  

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