22-year-old Mikayla Holmgren made history when she became the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in and win Miss Minnesota USA. She also won the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director’s Award.
Holmgren was born six weeks early with Down Syndrome and lacked an esophagus, StarTribune reports. However, she started dancing at age six and is now an avid dancer, and currently choreographs most of her dances.
Holmgren competes with the Bethel University dance team. She won the Junior Miss Amazing competition – a pageant for people with disabilities – in 2015 and also participated in the 2016 Special Olympics. According to Today, her mother, Sandi Holmgren, was shocked when her daughter said she wanted to enter the Miss Minnesota Pageant. Mikayla loves dancing and hopes to share that passion with the world.
“Dancing is a good outlet for me. It’s how I express myself,” Holmgren told Buzzfeed News. “It’s my talent and I want to show people what I can do and how I can give more.”
Through her dancing, Holmgren hopes she can challenge traditional views about talent and beauty in America.
“I want the whole world to see that I can do things that are hard and that people with Down Syndrome are beautiful and talented,” said Holmgren.
Twin Cities Pioneer Press states that she first learned about the competition through a flyer in the mail. Her mother was not sure what to think at first.
“She opened it up and said, ‘Mom, I want to do this,’” said her mother, Sandi Holmgren. “I said, ‘Oh, I’m not sure.’ She said, ‘Oh, please? It will be fun!’”
As a result, Holmgren’s mother asked Miss Minnesota Amazing director Jordan Crosser for advice. Crosser didn’t doubt Holmgren’s abilities and realized she could show the world that Down Syndrome does not limit her abilities.
“Mikayla has so much drive; I have no doubt that she will do well,” Crosser said. “I hope that she’s able to bring home the title, but, more than that, I hope that she walks away knowing she has shown the panel of judges that Down syndrome does not define her.”
The executive co-director of Miss Minnesota USA, Denise Wallace, also felt like Holmgren fit the description of an ideal contestant.
“Mikayla is such an incredible and accomplished young woman. We feel she definitely has what it takes to compete at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant this fall in that she is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants — someone who is confidently beautiful,” Wallace told People.
Holmgren set up a GoFundMe in February to fundraise for the competition and subsequently earned $5,786. The money went towards the entrance fee, a gown, a swimsuit, an interview outfit, shoes, hair and makeup, and other incidentals. Holmgren also has her own Facebook page and Instagram, where she posts pictures from competitions and videos of her dancing. She even has her own Twitter hashtag.
Holmgren is an ambassador for Best Buddies International, a nonprofit that creates opportunities for friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
After she graduates from Bethel, Holmgren hopes to open an art studio for kids with disabilities so they can create art and learn how to dance.
Holmgren’s Miss Minnesota USA win opens the door for many other young women, who may fear competing in beauty contests due to disabilities or their physical appearance. Mikayla Holmgren reminds everyone to bravely pursue their dreams.
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