22 year old Mikayla Holmgren from Stillwater, Minnesota, has been showered with praise and accolades after becoming the first person with Down Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA State pageant. The bubbly beauty stole the show as she took the stage in Burnsville as a contestant for the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant. Mikayla not only made history at the beauty pageant, but also walked away with the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director’s Award after a standing ovation from the audience.
As she presented the awards to Mikayla, the executive state director, Denise Wallace Heitkamp, said, “You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile, and dance. You exude the spirit of Miss USA by always being true to yourself and putting others first. You have selflessness, humility, and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart.”
Mikayla who is a student at Bethel University got her start on the stage by taking up dancing at just six years old, and caught the eye of the Miss Minnesota organizers after winning Minnesota Miss Amazing, a pageant for women with disabilities, in 2015. Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Mikayla’s mom, Sandi Holmgren, described the moment her daughter received a letter about Miss Minnesota and how excited she was about it.
She said, “I wrote that she had Down syndrome and thought they would pass her by but they decided they wanted her to be a part of it. I didn’t realize it was part of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant and it took me a few weeks to realize the enormity of it and what a big deal it was for her to be in.”
Mikayla’s inclusion in the pageant turned out to be a huge inspiration for other young women with Down syndrome, many of whom showed up with their parents to see the Mikayla take the stage. Although the crown of Miss Minnesota went to Kalie Wright, of Eagle Bend, Mikayla plans to continue inspiring others by competing in pageants in the future.