Ericka Dunlap grew up in Orlando and dreamed of being Miss America from the time she was six years old. With three older sisters, one of whom was in college studying fashion design, Ericka was the perfect “mini model” and developed a love of dressing up and walking the runway at age three.
She began entering pageants in the first grade, and while she placed in the top 20 during her first outing, she didn’t win. But soon after, she won her first crown. As a self-proclaimed “girly girl” who loved dressing up, Ericka was hooked. As she continued to compete, her mother started designing and sewing many of her dresses and costumes.
Ericka attended private school through the eighth grade and traveled the country on the weekends competing in pageants. But she took a break in 1996 when she began as a freshman at Boone High School. Her goal was to have the full high-school experience and prepare for college. At Boone, she was freshman class president and participated in a variety of clubs and organizations.
As Ericka began contemplating college at UCF, she decided to set her goal on Miss Florida, in part for the scholarship money. She won Miss Orlando in 2001 and Miss Heart of Florida in 2002. Both years she placed in the top 10 for Miss Florida. The following year, after being named Miss City Beautiful, she made it back to Miss Florida – and this time won, becoming the first black woman to wear the crown.
During her reign as Miss America, Ericka traveled the country and the world, entertaining troops Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, and sharing the importance of diversity and inclusion. She and her former husband also appeared on The Amazing Race 15 and placed third.
Dunlap is the founder of the Crown Jewel Foundation, an organization that encourages young girls to strive for excellence. Because of that dedication to young people, Ericka is a frequent mentor to girls at Evans High School and
Most recently, Ericka was named the Major Gifts Officer for Florida A&M University’s College of Law.