In this Tuesday Sept. 10, 2013 photo, Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, takes part in the swimsuit competition during the first night of the Miss America Pageant at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, N.J. Vail isn't looking to shock the nation at the 2014 pageant.
(Photo: Edward Lea, AP)
It's a first for the Miss America pageant.
Miss Kansas Theresa Vail, 22, will be proudly sporting two large tattoos during Sunday's contest (ABC, 9 p.m. ET).
She showed them off during Tuesday's preliminary competition in Atlantic City.
One of them is a Serenity Prayer on her right side. The other is the insignia of the U.S. Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder.
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She has stirred up news this week with the revelation. On Friday's Good Morning America, she noted, "Half the girls have tattoos, they just choose to cover them."
But she has gotten lots of support. And not just for the tattoos. Vail is also a sergeant in the U.S. Army, only the second contestant ever to be on active duty.
"Nobody expects a soldier to be a beauty queen," Vail told People magazine. "But I'm all about breaking stereotypes."
She added, "My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers. What a hypocrite I would be if I covered my ink," Vail said. "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."
But wait, there's more. Vail is also an M16 marksman, a bow hunter, and a mechanic. The beauty queen idea came just nine months ago on the advice of her commanding officer. One problem: she was told she wouldn't be able to use archery as her talent. No worries; she picked opera.