By Victoria Cavaliere
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Kansas woman hoping to be crowned the next Miss America on Sunday night keeps her personal mission statement close to her heart: it’s tattooed on her torso.
Miss Kansas Theresa Vail became the first Miss America contestant to visibly show her tattoos during competitions this week, pageant officials said. Her two pieces of ink are expected to be on display during Sunday’s nationally televised pageant.
Tattoos aren’t the only thing that sets Vail, 22, apart from her beauty queen competitors. She’s also a member of the Kansas National Guard, making her the second contestant in the history of the Miss America Pageant to be an active member of the military.
Sergeant Vail, who lists her hobbies as hunting, archery and cooking, addressed her tattoos on her personal blog. She said her decision to not cover them during the contest was an attempt to challenge traditional definitions of beauty and femininity.
“I do not want to shock the nation when I’m seen in a swimsuit, bearing my marks,” she wrote. “I am opting to show them proudly.”
Her goal, she said is “empowering women to OVERCOME stereotypes and break barriers.”
Vail’s two tattoos include her “personal mission statement,” the Serenity Prayer, down the right side of her torso. It reads “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”
Her other tattoo is the insignia of the U.S. Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder. Vail says she hopes to go on to dental school in the future.
Another Miss America contestant making headlines is Miss Iowa, Nicole Kelly. Kelly was born without part of her left forearm and says she has never let her disability get in the way of doing what she wanted.
The 2014 Miss America will be crowned Sunday night.