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Miss Kansas vies for national crown, tattoos and all

By Dorrine Mendoza and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Miss Kansas to display her tattoos in Miss America pageant
  • She wrote a blog post explaining her decision
  • Tattoos among millennials are on the rise, study finds
  • Miss America will crown its winner Sunday

(CNN) -- She could, maybe, be the first beauty pageant contestant to sport a tattoo, but determining that would necessitate reportage on the obscured derrieres and other regions of hundreds of past contestants.

So we'll just say Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, is the first beauty queen to prominently sport a large tattoo during a pageant.

But that's not the only thing that sets her apart from most bombshells. The Miss America contestant also hunts deer with a bow and is an M16 marskman (markswoman?) serving in the U.S. Army while double-majoring in Chinese and chemistry at Kansas State. Oh, and she's working on her private pilot's license.

"I'm all about breaking stereotypes," she said. "Everybody thinks of Miss America as this girl on a pedestal. I want her to come down from that. She is just a normal girl."

Bryan Cranston's "Breaking Bad" tattoo

Vail elaborated on her tattoo in a blog post last month.

"I am writing this (blog) post just weeks away from competing for Miss America because I do not want to shock the nation when I'm seen in a swimsuit, bearing my marks. I want to explain the meanings and reasons behind them, and why I am opting to show them proudly," she wrote in August.

Both tattoos are on her right ribcage. One is of the Serenity Prayer, running from her armpit to her hip. It was partially obscured by her bikini strap during the swimsuit segment of the pageant.

The other is a military medical insignia. Her plans include a career in dentistry.

Tattoos and piercings: How young is too young?

Miss Kansas' Serenity Prayer tattoo

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

Vail wrote that she chose to get the prayer tattoo because she was bullied as a youngster and the prayer gave her the strength to get through high school and boot camp. She wrote that the insignia was inspired by her father, who was influential in her decision to pursue a dental profession in the military.

"If I were crowned Miss America, bearing my tattoos, do you realize the stereotypes and stigmas it would break?" she wrote. "Do you realize it would pave a path for a whole new audience to compete in the Miss America Organization?"

Tattoos among the millennial generation are on the rise, according to a 2010 Pew Study: Nearly 40% are inked.

"If I don't win the title of Miss America, I can only hope I have changed people's perceptions of the type of women that choose to compete for it. God, Grant me the Courage to Change the Things I Can...," she wrote.

The Miss America Organization will crown its pageant winner Sunday. A request for comment from the organization was not immediately returned.

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