On the surface, Miss Kansas looks like a typical beauty queen: tall, slender, long blonde hair, and a gorgeous smile. But there is something very different about Theresa Vail.
Sergeant Theresa Vail.
At 22-years old, Sergeant Vail is only the second Army member to participate in the Miss America pageant. She loves to shoot and hunt with a bow and arrow. She can skin a deer and owns a recipe for stewed squirrels. She is also proudly showcasing the two tattoos on her body during the bikini round. It will be the first time a contestant will show her tattoos. From People:
“Why am I choosing to bear my tattoos?” Vail says. “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.”
One is the insignia for the US Army Dental Corps, and the other is the Serenity Prayer down her right side.
Originally she planned to showcase her shooting talent, but no projectile objects were allowed in the competition. She looked up opera (she sang soprano in high school) and sang Luciano Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma.” Sergeant Vail impresses many.
“I’ve worked with five former Miss Kansas contestants and I’ve never seen anyone this focused and determined,” says Kim Brom, business manager for the Miss Kansas pageant. “She has so many different qualities – she’s a hunter, she’s in the military, she’s fluent in Chinese, she’s very educated and, even more than that, she has that unquantifiable star quality.”
Sergeant Vail is a senior at Kansas State University, majoring in Chinese and chemistry. She explained why she wants to help other woman:
“I was bullied when I was a kid. It got so bad that I nearly took my own life … My dad [an Army dentist stationed in Germany] took me hunting with him and it saved my life. Ever since then, I’ve been an outdoors girl,” she says. “My passion is empowering girls through male-dominated outdoor sports.”
She adds, “I want to help them develop confidence, to let them know that they have what it takes to accomplish anything they want to accomplish. I know many young girls look at beauty candidates and think, ‘What a perfect life they have.’ But I want them to know that I haven’t led a perfect life. And that beauty comes from the inside.”