There she is! Where do we even begin? Look at her hair, actually bouncing with every step. It looks so soft, so thick. It frames her face so nicely. And to talk about her face! I’m not even going to begin. Look, she’s in a bikini, too! This is getting good! Oh wait.
She has a tattoo.
Theresa Vail, the 22-year-old Kansas State University senior, is representing her state in the Miss America pageant. Although at first glance people may think of her as another trophy woman in a pageant, she is a Sergeant in the Army National Guard, an expert markswoman and she strives to work with the U.S. Army Dental Corps. Vail is also seemingly the first in the pageant’s history to proudly display tattoos on her body.
The two tattoos are on her ribcage and her shoulder. On her ribs, she has the words of the Serenity Prayer. According to Vail, the prayer helped her overcome bullying and boot camp. On her shoulder, she has the U.S. Army Dental Corps insignia around a “D” for “Dad.” According to a CNN article and an Associate Press video Friday, the pageant committee is excited for contestants to display their originality.
So the higher-ups do not have a problem with her ink. In her blog, missoutdoorgirl.com, Vail openly speaks of her tattoos and persona. In the blog she said, “I am a firm believer that lengthy and conscious thought should be given before getting ‘inked.’” She goes on to mention how she does not have any flowers, dragons or “frivolous items.” She means business with every decision, whether it is joining the army at 17 or her body art.
Vail is photographed in full camo-print hunting gear, holding a bow and letting her blonde hair flow in the wind. She is the kind of pageant woman out to break stereotypes.
At first, when you look at her career field, it is safe to assume nobody would judge her character based on her choice to get tattoos. She is in the U.S. Army. When you think about it, though, the places she chose to get tattoos are hidden until she is wearing a bikini or less.
So why are people mentioning her ink before they mention her impressive Army career or aspirations? Why don’t they talk about intelligent she is? Seriously, watch her interviews. She’s with it.
Ten years ago, tattoo shops were filled with Harley owners, U.S. Marines and veterans. Today, tattoos are commonplace for 18-year-olds or Urban Outfitters employees. Whether they’re hidden or out in the open, more people are getting tattoos to remember harder times or to inspire themselves.
In a professional environment, people still must worry about their presentation. Their personal expressions could work against the company’s goals. It could affect the company’s image if clients tend to be ultra-conservative, religious or just plain old. Older generations, the people employing the 20-somethings right out of college, still stigmatize people with tattoos, no matter how impressive their resumes may be. Have you ever seen a tattooed broadcast journalist? (If you have, please let us know!)
If Vail had chosen to reveal the tattoo at the pageant instead of before, she may have gotten more press, but she expertly took the attention away from the tattoo before people even saw it. News outlets have moved to analyzing her background and why she has the tattoos. She is helping shift the stigmas of tattoos from blemishes to something of nostaligia — something the older generation can relate to.
So, Vail has shattered the image of the “cookie-cutter” Miss America. Olivia Culpo did this last year by expertly and eloquently speaking about inclusion in the transgender community. Now Miss Kansas is doing it with her sniper rifle and ink.