Kimberly Clarice Aiken made history in 1993 by becoming the first African-American to be crowned Miss South Carolina.
Eight weeks later the 18-year-old would go on to compete and successfully win the title of Miss America. Her duel wins made her the fifth black woman to be crowned Miss America and the second contestant in South Carolina’s state history to win both coveted titles.
An advocate for the plight of homelessness, Aiken used her platform as Miss America to work with Habitat for Humanity, visit homeless shelters and speak to organizations like the National Press Club to bring awareness. Prior to her wins, she founded HERO, the Homeless Education and Resource Organization in Columbia.
“Instead of giving the homeless canned goods and clothes, we want to give them long-term hope for long-term solutions,” Aiken said at the time.
Named one of People Magazine’s “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1994, Aiken has made several television appearances and received countless awards and honors, including the Order of the Palmetto, the highest honor bestowed upon civilians in South Carolina.
Aiken went on to graduate from New York University and work for the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP before pursuing her current career as an image consultant and motivational speaker. She is now married and lives in New York City with her husband and two children.