Miss America contestant Theresa Vail is making history as the first contestant to reveal her tattoos and the second woman in the armed forces to ever compete in the pageant. Miss Kansas, a U.S. Army sergeant, reveals in a new interview that a history of bullying is what led her to get a large tattoo of the Serenity Prayer on her right side. At 10 years old, Vail says her peers were so cruel to her that she nearly took her own life.
“Thank God it was my Dad who saved me,” she tells Fox 411. “I remember I didn’t know the words of the Serenity Prayer at that point but I knew what I wanted to say to God, which was, help me find peace in these things that they’re making fun of me for, because I can’t change them, but on the other hand I also prayed for courage to just stand up for myself and change things that I really could. So when I was old enough I knew I never wanted to forget that story because I wanted to inspire people who may be in the same situation. That’s why I got the tattoo.”
Vail also has a tattoo of the U.S. Army Dental Corps logo on her left shoulder as a testament to her career in the armed forces. The 22-year-old says one of her peers in her Army unit originally suggested she become involved in pageants as a way to “really become a role model and hopefully a national voice.”
Her message? “Empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers,” Vail explains. “We all face challenges in society. We’re placed under certain convictions and we feel we have to stay under them and I want people to know, it doesn’t matter what society says. It doesn’t matter what the quote, unquote rules say. You can do whatever you want, whatever you set your mind to, that’s what I did when I showed my tattoos.”