Beauty standards are becoming more and more inclusive, and nowhere is this more beautifully demonstrated than in 22-year-old Mikayla Holmgren’s participation in the Miss USA pageant on 26 November. Mikayla Holmgren was the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Regional Miss USA pageant (specifically the Miss Minnesota USA pageant).
Holmgren has been dancing for 16 years and participated in the Special Olympics in gymnastics. She received a standing ovation from the audience as she won both the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director’s Award.
Holmgren, from Stillwater, Minnesota, wore an electric blue gown with a train. “I just loved this day,” she told Today. “I was on that stage and they called my name, I was in tears. I was very emotional.”
Holmgren had first competed in the special needs pageant Minnesota Miss Amazing in 2015, and then received her mother’s blessing to participate in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. “I was super shocked, I was in tears,” she told Buzzfeed. “I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It’s kind of crazy.”
“It was clear to us from the very beginning that Mikayla was uniquely special,” a representative for Miss USA told Insider. “Her energy, confidence, and attitude are contagious, and we felt very confident that this experience would be a perfect fit for Mikayla.”
Holmgren currently studies at Bethel University’s Inclusive Learning and Development program and will graduate this year. She is also an ambassador for Best Buddies, a non-profit that helps people with disabilities. She has a GoFundMe account that has so far raised $5,569 to cover the costs of participating in the pageants.
“I am an advocate for individuals with Down syndrome,” Holmgren told Global News. “I love being on stage, mostly as a dancer. I choreograph my own dances.”
Holmgren’s message is one of inclusion and belief in one’s self. “I have special needs and it’s really important,” she told CBS News. “Dream big without limits.”
After reading about Holmgren’s participation in the pageant, many women brought their daughters, who also have Down syndrome, to watch her participate and cheer her on.
“I was overwhelmed,” said Lana Beaton, who brought her 2-year-old daughter Clara to see the pageant. “I was full of so much hope and joy and excitement for her and our future.”
“She’s an ambassador. She’s going to be a leader and stands firm for others that maybe don’t know how to achieve things,” Holmgren’s mother, Sandi Holmgren, said in April of 2017 when Mikayla announced her intention to enter the pageant.
The future is bright for Holmgren, who told Insider that her plans include graduating from Bethel University and opening an art studio for kids with disabilities.
Nezha Boutamine | Staff Writer