I don’t know about you, but when I think of a beauty pageant, the words “armed forces” don’t necessarily come to mind.
However, Sunday’s airing of “Miss America” showed otherwise.
Theresa Vail, a 22-year-old U.S. Army National Guard sergeant, was among the 53 women competing for the title of Miss America.
As Miss Kansas, Vail stood out from the crowd for a number of reasons, mostly because she didn’t fit the public’s perception of “beauty queen”.
Besides being the second woman from the National Guard to compete in a Miss America pageant, Vail was the first contestant to bare tattoos in the competition.
She has two tattoos, an army insignia and the Serenity Prayer, covering her shoulder and torso.
While other pageant contestants usually cover their tattoos in fear of losing, Vail took a different approach.
She was quoted by Fox News saying, “What a hypocrite I would be – if I say be all you can be, embrace your individuality, embrace your differences, break barriers – if I couldn’t even do that myself.”
It’s obvious that Vail’s mission is to break down barriers and change society’s stereotypical thinking, but was her appearance in the 2013 Miss America Pageant enough?
Vail did not win the title, and therefore, some may argue there was a bit of discrimination against her presence.
If she covered her tattoos and didn’t try to make archery her talent portion of the show, would she have had a better chance of winning?
On the other hand, Vail did make it into the group of top 10 semifinalists, making me want to believe that the people who judge Miss America did accept her.
Either way, I think it’s absolutely wonderful that Vail represented herself the way she did in Sunday night’s “Miss America” pageant.
Aside from the obvious differences, such as her noticeable tattoos and past presence in the army, Vail represents a strong, inspirational woman.
She is someone who can unite the two worlds of combat and beauty – two worlds society likes to keep separate.
My hope is that more people like Vail come around in an attempt to challenge the stereotypical thinking we implement when thinking about beauty queens and watching beauty pageants like Miss America.
Thanks to Vail, little girls around the world who enjoy activities like hunting and archery can now identify with a Miss America contestant.