We’ve all seen them.  The Miss America pageant contestants have a certain perfection to them.  Their teeth are dazzling white, their hair is styled immaculately and their skin is flawless.  With poise and grace, they grace the stage, representing their home state.

Some have condemned the pageant for creating an image of young women that is unrealistic but, in recent years, things have started to shift.  Now, one contestant is going to take all of that to the next level.

Theresa Vail is blonde and blue-eyed and, if she wanted, could easily blend in with the traditional style of Miss America contestants.  Instead, she is very comfortable with standing out and could change the pageant in three very big ways.

She Loves Taking Risks

The reigning Miss Kansas is an adrenaline junky.  She used to race motorcycles, skydives and actually risks personal injury in the boxing ring.  She has said that the only reason she left racing was because she wants to be a dentist and had already broken too many fingers.

She Served Her Country

Fluent in Chinese, Vail is a member of the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment which makes her just the second service member to compete in the Miss America pageant (the first was Miss Utah, Jill Stevens, in 2007).

Camouflage and Tattoos

The Kansas State University senior, who is majoring in both Chinese and Chemistry, de-stresses by throwing on her hunting gear.  An expert archer, she honed her skills at a young age to cope with the pain of being bullied.  She credits her father with introducing her to the pastime which, she admits, may have saved her life.  Now, she pays it forward by working to empower “girls through male-dominated outdoor sports.”

Viewers will get to see what Vail looks like without all her camouflage.  In fact, underneath it all, she has tattoos of the Serenity Prayer and military medical insignia.  She has no plans to conceal them during the swimsuit competition.

It’s hard to know how Theresa Vail will be received by the judges or the audience but she’s setting an important precedence.  She is showing that today’s women have diverse interests and backgrounds and that we do not all have to look and think alike in order to be valued.  We will have to wait and see if she earns the crown but many might say that she’s already won.

Image Source: Miss Kansas