Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, 22, became the first contestant in the history of the pageant to show a tattoo during the first round of the Miss America preliminaries Wednesday night when she allowed the "Serenity Prayer" on her ribs and hip to show as she strutted in her red bikini, The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported Thursday.
She has another tattoo of the insignia of the U.S. Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder.
Vail, who joined the Kansas Army National Guard at 17 and has a double major of Chinese and chemistry at Kansas State University, said she wants to break stereotypes.
"My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers," Vail wrote on her blog. "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."
Sharon Pearce, president of the Miss America Organization, said officials support Vail's decision not to cover her ink.
"We believe each contestant definitely has the ability to show their individuality," she said. "We're happy to support them."