Miss Kansas pushes idea of beauty — with tattoo, rifle, parachute and combat boots
By Jacqueline L. Urgo
Published: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 7:12 p.m.
Hey, Kansas, your beauty queen wears combat boots!
And has big tattoos, too.
As an active member of the military, Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail — ahem, Army National Guard Sgt. Vail — may just have a slightly different take on world peace than the typical Miss America pageant contestant.
The slender blonde is an expert marksman who apparently knows her way around an M-16. She raced motorcycles as a teen until she broke her fingers. She is fluent in Chinese (she has a 3.8 GPA at Kansas State University) and likes to skydive and bow-hunt for deer. She's working on a hunting series in production for the Outdoor Channel. (She will be the host.)
While her Miss America profile head shot has her looking like a supermodel, decked out in a hot-pink outfit, fluffed hair and dangle earrings, other promo websites feature photos of her in full camouflage garb sporting a hunting rifle, bow and arrow, even posing with her prey (a deer, a fox).
But Vail is among only a handful of Miss America Pageant contestants to have military credentials. She is a dental technician with a National Guard medical unit based out of Kansas. Five pageant women since 1992 have been active-duty military, and Miss Utah 2007, Jill Stevens, was the first to work in a combat zone.
Also, Vail, 22, competing this week in the 2014 Miss America Pageant, is the first contestant ever to sport visible tattoos. Sure, other contestants have had tattoos — tiny, hidden ones, according to pageant officials.
But Vail's big, bold tat, of the Serenity Prayer, flanks her entire right midriff. She also sports the insignia of the Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder. The university senior aspires to be an Army dentist.
“No one expects a soldier to be a beauty queen. Right now, everyone thinks of Miss America as this girl on a pedestal, and I want her to come down from that. She is just a normal girl,” Vail said in a recent interview with a newspaper in Kansas.
So there it was, the big tattoo, when she competed Sept. 10 in the swimsuit portion of the three-night preliminary competition. She didn't win, wearing a bright-red bikini and the tattoo, done in scrolly vintage lettering.
But she apparently scored one for the atypical beauty queen crowd.
With no beauty contest experience, Vail entered her first pageant just nine months ago and became Miss Leavenworth County before winning Miss Kansas in June. Her pageant platform is “Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers.”
It's a subject Vail — who says she was bullied and teased through school — holds dear, hoping to inspire other young women to be whatever they choose.
Even for Sept. 14's much-anticipated “Show Us Your Shoes” Parade — an all-out glittery spectacle where the contestants get to show off their flashy side — Vail is opting to wear her camouflage Army uniform and combat boots instead of the de rigueur five-inch heels and evening gowns being worn by most of the other women.
The next night, Sept. 15, the Miss America Pageant will be televised live beginning at 9 p.m. on ABC.
“I think Miss Kansas' participation in the pageant,” said Sharon Pearce, president of the Miss America Organization, “shows us the diverse women that are involved in the competition.”
Jacqueline L. Urgo is a staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fashion FYI: Deschanel, Hilfiger team up for new Macy’s line
- Free People fashion brand to open second area store at Ross Park Mall
- Former nurse specializing in retail therapy at Upper St. Clair boutique