Traditionally, the Miss America Pageant is known to showcase beautiful women that represent grace, talent, intelligence, class and purity. Each year, representatives from all 50 states, with the addition of Washington DC, Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands go through an extensive nationally televised competition of fashion wear, question & answer and talent show in hopes of winning the prestigious crown.
Similarly to the high fashion industry, tattoos have been largely seen as a distraction and frowned upon in the Miss America Pageant. Up until recently, you’d be hard pressed to find tattooed models walking down the runway; it was taboo and frowned upon. Thankfully, tattoos have fused into the mainstream and as of today, will finally make their way into the pageant as well.
This year in Atlantic City, NJ, Miss Kansas Theresa Vail will be the first contestant with clearly visible tattoos, and will make no attempt to hide them. On her left shoulder, an insignia for the U.S. Army Dental Corps, and on her right side is a large serenity prayer. Using her public platform as a means of female empowerment, Vail considers her ink as a part of her persona, and believes it would be hypocritical to conceal her tattoos as they encourage women to be fearless and express themselves.
Vail enlisted in the Kansas Army National Guard at age 17 and recently reenlisted for another six years, while attending Kansas State University, studying Chinese and chemistry. An expert M16 marksman, bow hunter, skydiver, boxer, mechanic and an army dentist, Theresa is a jack of all trades and breaking the stereotype that women have to be fragile beauties that can’t fend for themselves. In the talent competition, Vail plans to sing opera because archery isn’t allowed. Her message is clear:
"My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers. What a hypocrite I would be if I covered my ink. How can I tell other women to be fearless and true to themselves if I can't do the same? I am who I am, tattoos and all."
Educated, talented, ambitious, bilingual, outdoorsy; there isn’t much this beauty can’t do. Her goal is to show that not all beauty contestants have the perfect lives that are portrayed on the outside; beauty comes from within.
"Nobody expects a soldier to be a beauty queen, but I'm all about breaking stereotypes."