If you haven't yet found a reason to catch the 2013 Miss America pageant, would getting to know a contestant who's a member of the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment, a big-time bowhunter, and an expert M16 marksman pique your interest?
To say that Theresa Vail proudly tears down Miss America stereotypes more than states the obvious.
She's also a skydiver, boxer, and a mechanic (or "grease monkey," as she notes in her pageant video below). A People magazine profile notes that she had to cease motorcycle racing after breaking all the fingers in her right hand, but Vail can still skin a deer and possesses a fab squirrel stew recipe.
But beyond her atypical skills and service, what's turning many heads in the 22-year-old's direction is what she's chosen to reveal in the swimsuit competition — and that again bursts stereotypes.
While Vail's radical decision garnered nationwide interest, what's perhaps more compelling are the stories behind her tattoos.
One tattoo is the iconic “Serenity Prayer,” which is on her right side.
She notes on her blog:
“I was growing up amidst the bullying and neglect, I found myself asking God on a daily basis to give me peace in knowing I cannot change certain things about myself, but also asking Him to give me the strength to change things that I had the power to. Praying to Him for these characteristics got me through my adolescent years, high school and boot camp. When I was 20 years old, I knew I wanted to always be reminded of my past and its connection to this prayer. Thus, I chose to have it tattooed onto my body. I have no regrets."
Her other tattoo, on her left shoulder, is the military medical insignia:
"Though much smaller than the prayer, the significance is just as great. Since I was a child, God placed a strong passion for service into my heart. Service to my Country, and service to people through medicine. In the middle of this symbol is the letter ‘D’ to represent my dad, whose influence was paramount in choosing this career path."
Vail also explained the reasons for leaving her tattoos visible, saying "What a hypocrite I would be if I covered the ink. With my platform, how could I tell other women to be fearless and be true to themselves if I can’t do the same?...But I am who I am, tattoos and all.”
Vail won the Miss Kansas title after winning Miss Leavenworth County and is attempting to be the first Miss Kansas to win the Miss America crown since 1997 when Tara Dawn Holland was victorious, the Eagle reports.
She's no beauty-pageant "lifer," either. Vail entered her first competition just nine months ago on the advice of her commanding officer. But when she was told she wouldn’t be able to use archery as her talent, she had to pick another performance focus...and quick.
So chose to sing opera, Fox News notes. "I'd never sung opera in my life," Vail said.
But 48 hours later she had mastered a Pavarotti piece she found on YouTube and won the Miss Kansas talent competition.
A candid interview with Vail via NJ.com:
Here's Vail's pageant profile from ABC, via YouTube (which appears to depict clips of her Miss Kansas competition, in which her side tattoo was not visible):
And some shots of Vail in bowhunting action (and in the classroom) from Miss Outdoor Girl:
This post has been updated.
(H/T: Kansas City Star)