It’s hard to believe Miss Kansas Theresa Vail was ever the victim of bullies. But the 22-year-old beauty, who will compete for the Miss America title on Sunday, Sept. 15, told People she endured bullying as a child, and that hunting saved her.
“I was bullied when I was a kid. It got so bad that I nearly took my own life … My dad [an Army dentist stationed in Germany] took me hunting with him and it saved my life. Ever since then, I’ve been an outdoors girl.”
She adds, “I want to help (girls) develop confidence, to let them know that they have what it takes to accomplish anything they want to accomplish. I know many young girls look at beauty candidates and think, ‘What a perfect life they have.’ But I want them to know that I haven’t led a perfect life. And that beauty comes from the inside.”
Vail’s official platform for the Miss America pageant is “Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers,” which she strives to do through taking on challenges and excelling in male-dominated pursuits. According to her website, Miss Outdoor Girl:
“As a teen, Theresa found her strength and confidence when she started hunting and competitively shooting, such is the reason she chose her platform. She believes young women will find independence and self-esteem through participation in activities that generally only boys are involved in, such as hunting, camping, shooting, etc.”
In addition to her “outdoor girl” pursuits, Vail is a newly promoted sergeant in the Kansas Army National Guard, an expert marksman on the M16, and a boxer, mechanic, former motorcycle racer and pilot-in-training. She’s a newcomer to pageants, having entered her first less than a year ago, according to Fox News:
“Only recently did she add beauty queen to her resume, when she entered her first pageant just nine months ago on the advice of her commanding officer. When she was told she wouldn’t be able to use archery as her talent, she had to pick another one and quick… She chose to sing opera.”
A pageant winner who can skin a deer and possesses a fab squirrel stew recipe may seem unlikely.
But the 5.8 million women archers and bowhunters in the U.S. – and fans of the fictional Katniss Everdeen – may find at least one contestant in this year’s pageant wholly relatable.
The first nationwide archery survey, commissioned by the Archery Trade Association, showed that 18.9 million Americans age 18 and older participated in archery and/or bowhunting in 2012. One-third of all archery participants in 2012 were women.