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Miss Kansas says she likes breaking stereotypes

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, June 11, 2013, at 3:27 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, April 13, 2014, at 12:10 p.m.

She’s an Army girl, an expert marksman, a fluent Chinese speaker and a dental technician for the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment.

Add one more title to that: Miss Kansas 2013.

Theresa Vail, 22, who previously won the Miss Leavenworth County crown, won the Miss Kansas pageant over the weekend at Pratt Community College. This was just the second pageant for Vail.

“I actually got into it because of my fellow soldiers,” Vail said. “They said that I’d be a good role model, and I thought a good way to do that would be through the pageant.”

Vail said she works every weekend at the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Command in Lenexa, treating 250 to 400 soldiers from across the state. She arrives at 6:30 a.m. and usually leaves by 7 p.m., she said.

Possibly her biggest fans, Vail said, are her fellow soldiers.

“They’re so supportive,” Vail said. “They brag and say, ‘Miss Kansas is a soldier.’ ”

Her pageant platform is “empowering young women through male-dominant outdoor activities.” For example, when she has free time, she likes to hunt and lift weights, she said. She said she recently scored the highest of her section on the Army’s marksman test, receiving a 39 out of 40 rating.

“No one expects a soldier to be a beauty queen, and no one expects a beauty queen to be a soldier,” she said. “It’s about breaking the stereotypes.”

Vail, a senior at Kansas State University, will graduate with two degrees: one in chemistry and the other in Chinese.

She decided to study Chinese because one of her friends said it was the toughest language to learn, and she wanted the challenge, she said.

Another challenge she faced recently was finding a talent for the competition. She said she was going to use archery as her talent, but after contest organizers said it was too much of a liability, she tried singing opera.

“I don’t sing or dance,” Vail said. “I found out I love singing. I just need some lessons.”

Since winning the title, she said she has to look nice every day now, lest someone see her at Wal-Mart in sweat pants. But, she said she doesn’t mind it too much.

“You have a brand now that you need to maintain,” Vail said. “God forbid Miss Kansas not have a manicure.”

Until the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 15, Vail said she will travel the state, making appearances and keeping her nails in shape, of course. She is attempting to be the first Miss Kansas to win the title since 1997, when Tara Dawn Holland, of Overland Park, won the Miss America crown.

“I’m hoping my uniqueness will inspire people, and hopefully that will bode well at Miss America,” she said. “I like to shock people.”

Reach Matt Riedl at 316-269-6791 or mriedl@wichitaeagle.com.

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