Miss Kansas Bares Tattoos and 6 Other Memorable Miss America Moments

From Vanessa Williams' forced resignation to the first deaf winner, six unforgettable moments from pageants past

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The Press of Atlantic City /  Edward Lea / AP
The Press of Atlantic City / Edward Lea / AP

Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, takes part in the swimsuit competition during the first night of the Miss America Pageant at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, N.J., Sep. 10, 2013

The Miss America 2014 preliminaries are in full swing in Atlantic City, N.J. But even if Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, doesn’t win the crown, the 22-year-old will definitely go down in history as one of the pageant’s most memorable contestants. Not only is Vail a sergeant in the Army National Guard, but she’s also the first Miss America hopeful to show off tattoos during the swimsuit competition — the insignia of the U.S. Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder and one of the “Serenity Prayer” along the right side of her torso, according to People. “I’m all about breaking stereotypes,” the Kansas State University senior told ABC’s 20/20.

Before the finale airs on Sunday (9 p.m. ET on ABC), NewsFeed looks back at six other memorable moments from past Miss America pageants:

1937: Bette Cooper from New Jersey won the title, but got stage fright before the press conference started and ran away. She reportedly spent the night on a boat with her “Pageant male chaperone.”

1965: Vonda Van Dyke of Arizona became the first winner to perform a ventriloquist act on stage during the talent competition, which took place in Sept. 1964. But Miss Arkansas, Alyse Eady, took ventriloquism to new heights during the 2011 pageant, performing a ventriloquist and yodeling act to “I Wanna Be a Cowboy Sweetheart.”

williams

NBC / Getty Images

Vanessa Williams

1984: Vanessa Williams, now singer-actress, became the first African-American to win the pageant in Sept. 1983. But she was forced to resign her crown a year later after it was revealed that she did a nude photo shoot for Penthouse magazine.

1995: Heather Whitestone found out she was the first deaf woman to win the pageant in Sept. 1994, when “her runner-up pointed to her.” The newly-crowned Miss America signed “I love you” to the audience.

2011: Miss New York, Claire Buffie, became the first contestant to campaign for the Miss America title on a gay rights platform. “I have an opportunity to speak about equality and respect, something we all deserve as Americans, and I, through the Miss America organization, am able to have a loud, loud voice on that topic,” she said on MSNBC in 2010.

2013: ABC 20/20‘s “Pageant Confidential” showed that, while practicing for the competition’s Q&A segment, Miss California Leah Cecil thought euthanasia was a vaccine.

(LIST: Top 10 Beauty-Pageant Scandals)