Tattoos and Tiaras - My9 New Jersey

Tattoos and Tiaras

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Atlantic City, New Jersey (My9NJ) -

There's controversy at the 2013 Miss America pageant surrounding Miss Kansas and her tattoos.

The entire right side of Theresa Vail's body is covered in a tattoo and another on her back represents her military service. It is believed to be the first time that a Miss America contestant has openly shown a tattoo on stage.

The tattoo on her right side is the Serenity Prayer. It says, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

Vail says the prayer helped her as a child get through difficult times.

The tattoos were fully visible to the pageant judges during the swimsuit preliminary competition during the week-long event in Atlantic City. She did not win the round but it was unclear if the judges were swayed by the tattoos.

She said on her blog that while she doesn't have dragons or butterflies, the prayer is very personal and meaningful to her.

Vail wrote: "Should I win Miss America because I have tattoos? Of course not. BUT, I shouldn’t be discredited for having them either. This is 2013. We are not in the dark-ages."

Miss America contestants are told they are supposed to be comfortable in their own skin, she said, and wondered what sort of message it would send if she tried to cover the tattoos.

The 22-year-old from Manhattan, Kansas says her platform issues are to empower women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers.

Vail has served in the Kansas Army National Guard Medical Detachment and hopes to become a dentist for the Army after college. She cites expert marksmanship and Soldier of the Month awards on her pageant resume.

One of nine children, she joined the Kansas Army National Guard at the age of 17.

She is also a liturgical minister for her local church.

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