Miss America pageant to see first tattooed contestant

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Miss Kansas, an Army National Guard sergeant, has refused to hide her tattoos during during Sunday’s Miss America Pageant.

“Why am I choosing to [bare] my tattoos?” Sgt. Theresa Vail said in an interview with People magazine. “My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers. 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.”

PHOTOS: Tattooed Miss America hopeful Theresa Vail turns heads ahead of pageant

Sgt. Vail is a senior at Kansas State University, “majoring in Chinese and chemistry; an expert M16 marksman; a bow hunter; a skydiver; a boxer; a mechanic and former motorcycle racer,” MSN Entertainment reported.

“My passion is empowering girls through male-dominated outdoor sports,” Sgt. Vail said. “I want to help them develop confidence, to let them know that they have what it takes to accomplish anything they want to accomplish. I know many young girls look at beauty candidates and think, ‘What a perfect life they have.’ But I want them to know that I haven’t led a perfect life, and that beauty comes from the inside.”

The 2014 Miss America Competition preliminary contests began Tuesday in Atlantic City and Sgt. Vail didn’t take a win for her tattooed bikini walk or her opera-singing talent.

The Miss America Pageant airs Sunday, Sept. 15, on ABC at 9 p.m. ET.

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