The New Girl Next Door – Piercings and Tattoos in Beauty Pageants

modified beauty queens

The world is changing. Piercings and tattoos have had a bad reputation for being something that’s “masculine,” “not wholesome,” or just too harsh and distracting for a delicate female form. Those archetypes and misnomers have now been smashed. The girl next door that you see walking across a pageant runway is now a little bit more decorated. This year’s Miss America pageant made headlines when Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, walked across the stage with the first ever large, visible tattoo. In her blog Theresa wrote “Should I win Miss America because I have tattoos? Of course not, BUT I should not be discredited for having them either. This is 2013. We are not in the dark ages…”

And she’s right; tattoos and piercings are prevalent and popular in our culture. You see piercings and tattoos on men and women from every walk of life. A wholesome image can now include body modification. Tattoos and piercings can be very girly and complimenting to a woman’s soft image. Theresa has the Serenity Prayer on her left side, and a military insignia to represent her time in the service, and I think it’s absolutely beautiful. She proudly walked across that stage during the swimsuit competition with all of her ink displayed. This year’s Miss Montana also has a tattoo, (a cross and text on her foot) but it was not visible.

tattooed Miss America contestant Theresa Vail and her proudly tattooed moment

            There was a similar stir way back in 1997 when the first belly piercing was displayed on the Miss America stage by Jill Renee Cummings, then Miss Vermont. She proudly wore a silver belly ring with her two piece bikini. She stated that she had her belly button piercing long before she ever decided to get into beauty pageants and that it was a part of her. That attitude is definitely to be commended; it can be hard to be the first person to break through social taboos and barriers, especially on such a large stage.

Little girls look up to Miss America contestants, and it is paramount that they see the importance of individuality and being true to themselves. Theresa Vail has said in her blog “I’m all about breaking stereotypes. Everybody thinks of Miss America as this girl on a pedestal. I want her to come down from that. She is just a normal girl.” Even so, many contestants are directed to take out their belly piercings and multiple earrings in order to conform and not distract.

belly piercings at the Miss America pageantformer Miss America contestants bare their belly rings

              As a modern woman (who has piercings and tattoos)  I think it’s better to stand out than fade into the background.  Isn’t that the point?  I imagine that there are a lot more girls who covered up their tattoos with makeup and removed their piercings to walk across the stage, but the trail has been blazed. Hopefully next year we will see more openly modified contestants. Girls need role models who are real people, who are not afraid to break stereotypes and be themselves for all the world to see.

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