Mikayla Holmgren, a 22-year-old from Stillwater, Minnesota, stole the show at a Miss USA state pageant having been the first contestant with Down Syndrome to compete in the show.
Having made history for being the first person with Down Syndrome to compete, Mikayla said she went on the show for a particular reason.
She expressed, “I want to be able to show others what inclusion is all about, that someone with special needs can go after their dreams.”
Her charming spirit and gorgeous smile were enough for the Miss USA hopeful to walk away from the competition with not just one award, but two!
After competing in the show, she was honored with the Spirit of Miss USA Award, and the Director’s Award.
Having set her sights on competing as a way of representing people with special needs in a beauty pageant, she said she was surprised by her unexpected wins.
“I was super shocked, I was in tears,” she said. “I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It’s kind of crazy.”
This is not the first time Mikayla has performed in front of a crowd, and you could tell she was a born natural. Having been dancing since the age of six, Mikayla confidently took to the stage of Miss USA but does say it was her biggest challenge yet.
Apart from performing and spreading her infectious smile, Mikayla is an ambassador for a non-profit organization called Best Buddies, which aims at enhancing the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Her work has not gone unnoticed either. Denise Wallace, executive co-director of Miss Minnesota USA speaks highly of Holmgren, stating, “Mikayla is such an incredible and accomplished young woman, she is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants.”