No one, before Miss Kansas Theresa Vail, had walked onstage of Miss America during the preliminary swimsuit portion to show visible tattoos on her body. Thus, on Tuesday, September 10, the 22-year-old senior at Kansas State University became the first ever crown hopeful to openly display her tattoos while competing in the pageant.
Vail had a large tattoo of the Serenity Prayer on the right side of her torso which carries the full text, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." On her left shoulder blade, the Army National Guard member sports the insignia of the U.S. Army Dental Corps.
Both tattoos hold significant meaning to the aspiring beauty queen and prosthetic dentist. The Serenity Prayer, created in the early 1900s by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is in fact a well-known prayer that has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs. Vail said she used to recite it in her teens to cope with being bullied.
Vail wrote on her blog that she openly displayed her tattoos to empower other women "to overcome stereotypes and break barriers." She stated, "What a hypocrite I would be if I covered my ink. How can I tell other women to be fearless and true to themselves if I can't do the same? I am who I am, tattoos and all."