The tattooed Miss Kansas and other Miss America firsts

September 10, 2013

It’s that time again: Which Miss America contestant can reap the most pre-pageant buzz as a trailblazer? Miss Kansas Theresa Vail threw down the gauntlet Tuesday with news that she will parade on stage in Atlantic City Sunday in a little swimsuit. . . and two big tattoos.


Miss Kansas Theresa Vail at the 2014 Miss America Contestants Photo Call last week. (Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)

“My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers,” the National Guard member told People. Her left shoulder bears the U.S. Army Dental Corps insignia; her right side, the Serenity Prayer. “What a hypocrite I would be if I covered my ink.”

Yeah, well, Miss Iowa Nicole Kelly is already coming in with her own hype — as the first contender with one arm.

Since 1921, the pageant has checked off most of the standard boxes — first Jewish winner (Bess Myerson 1945), first black winner (Vanessa Williams 1984), first deaf winner (Heather Whitestone 1995) — so now the buzz is ever more exotic. Nicole Johnson was the first contestant to display her insulin pump; she went on to win the 1999 crown. Last year, Miss Montana Alexis Wineman was the first contestant with autism — while Miss Delaware Kayla Martell, the first bald one.

Earlier: Miss America Mallory Hagan in D.C.: Making most of short tenure, 6/12/13

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Amy Argetsinger | September 10, 2013