The most recently crowned Miss Kansas may be the type of beauty queen that seems tailor-made for Leavenworth County.
Theresa Vail said she feels a little more comfortable in boots and camouflage than an evening gown, in a deer stand as much as on stage.
She's one of nine children from a military family but has lived in Leavenworth since 2006 and is a 2009 graduate of Leavenworth High School, where she was in JROTC. Her hobbies include bow hunting and boxing. She's currently a student at Kansas State University, pursuing majors in Chinese and chemistry in the hopes of becoming an Army dentist.
She was born in Fort Drum, N.Y., but from her upbringing to her hobbies, Vail agreed that she represents the values of Kansas and Leavenworth County.
“I'm coming from the military side, and I consider Kansas my home, since we've lived here since 2002,” she said.
Vail will have her chance to promote those values on Sept. 15, when she competes in the 2013 Miss America contest in Atlantic City, N.J., representing Kansas. She's made “empowering young women to overcome cultural stereotypes” her platform issue, a theme that she said she has refined since first beginning to participate in the Miss America pageant system.
That platform leading up to the Miss Kansas pageant had been “empowering young women through male-dominated outdoor activities.” Now, she said she has broadened that a bit to accommodate a larger audience.
“I don't want to force my hobbies or my opinions onto women,” who may or may not share her interests, she said. “What I want them to do is go for whatever they want to achieve in life, whether that's outdoors or not.”
Vail said in that regard, she sees herself as a sort of living example, having entered what is still a male-dominated field ― the military.
“I use as evidence my experiences and my stories and explain why it's so relevant to who I am,” she said. “It's not just a platform that I picked out of thin air. It's who I am and who I grew up being.”
One thing Vail said she had never thought of herself as is a beauty queen ― she said she hadn't even given the idea much thought until recently, when a fellow member of her National Guard unit stopped her.
“He sees everything that I do, and he said 'Theresa, you are a role model, whether you see that or not, you should really hone in on that,'” she said. “And I got to thinking about it and I thought that's true.”
Page 2 of 2 - Vail said she decided to enter the pageant in December, not exactly expecting to be so successful in her first attempt. But she said she's happy to have the chance to spread her message to other young women.
“Being Miss Kansas, it means I get to reach a whole new demographic and reach more young women,” she said.