Over the weekend, Nina Davuluri became the first contestant of Indian heritage to be crowned Miss America pageant. She performed a classical Bollywood fusion dance for her talent competition.I didn’t watch the pageant, but in reading about it during the past week, I chose Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, as my favorite. She made Miss America history by openly displaying her tattoos – the Serenity Prayer on her rib cage and a U.S. Army Dental Corps insignia on the back of a shoulder. When she was seventeen, she joined the Kansas Army National Guard. Now, five years later, she has become an expert marksman with the M16 rifle. She is also working towards a private pilot’s license, and her college majors are chemistry and Chinese.
To clarify, I’m not a huge fan of tattoos, but if she had them, she was right not to cover them up. I’m a proponent of being yourself. She said, “I was growing up amidst the bullying and neglect; I found myself asking God on a daily basis to give me peace in knowing I cannot change certain things about myself, but also asking Him to give me the strength to change things that I had the power to. Praying to Him for these characteristics got me through my adolescent years, high school, and boot camp. When I was twenty years old, I knew I wanted to always be reminded of my past and its connection to this prayer. Thus, I chose to have it tattooed onto my body. I have no regrets. The second is the military medical insignia. Though much smaller than the prayer, the significance is just as great. Since I was a child, God placed a strong passion for service into my heart. Service to my country, and service to people through medicine. In the middle of this symbol is the letter ‘D’ to represent my dad, whose influence was paramount in choosing this career path.”
This soldier eschewed a bedazzled costume and wore her camouflage gear and Army boots during Saturday night’s “show-us-your-shoes” parade on the Boardwalk. For her talent, she had planned to show her marksmanship with an on-stage archery display, but she was told two days before the pageant that “projectile objects” are forbidden. No problem. She improvised admirably, singing an operatic piece from Puccini, “Nessun Dorma.” Folks, she prepared that in forty-eight hours. Please put her in charge of something important.
Sunday, Vail tweeted: “Win or not tonight, I have accomplished what I set out to do. I have empowered women. I have opened eyes.” Indeed. She was chosen for the Top 10 and won a nationwide voters’ choice award propelling her into the semi-finals. The girl is a winner. She’s an Elizabeth Bennet if I ever saw one.
Here’s another “Lizzy.” This is my daughter, Mandy, who recently completed more than five years in the U.S. Navy.She met and married her Captain Wentworth during her service to her country.
Miss Florida, Myrrhanda Jones, was another strong woman. She made it into the Top 5 while wearing a bejeweled knee brace. Though she tore ligaments in her knee while rehearsing her baton twirling routine on Thursday, she didn’t give up. She braced her knee and performed her routine flawlessly on Sunday night. It reminded me of the movie, “Miss Congeniality.”