The Miss USA pageant is making history! Six decades after its very first competition, the annual beauty contestant featured its first woman with Down syndrome. Mikayla Holmgren competed in the Minnesota state pageant on Sunday— and she walked away with two awards.
The 22-year-old beauty has been dancing competitively since she was six years old, and is also an ambassador for Best Buddies. "I'm really proud of myself, this is my dream," she told local news station, KSTP. While she didn't win the title, she did walk away with the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director's Award by the end of the night.
“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," executive state director, Denise Wallace Heitkamp, said according to Cosmopolitan.
However, this wasn't her first pageant. In 2015, she competed in the Minnesota Miss Amazing pageant, a pageant created for women with special needs. "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," her mom Sandy told Buzzfeed of her daughter's Miss USA ambitions.
"I was super shocked, I was in tears," Mikayla added. "I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It's kind of crazy." She is currently enrolled at Bethel University in their Inclusive Learning and Development program. “I hope to continue dancing. I want to teach art to young children. And would love to model," she wrote on Facebook. "I want to live independently and continue to be an advocate for inclusion. I want to be a light shining for acceptance."