This Woman With Down Syndrome Just Made History In A Miss USA Pageant

Last year, now-supermodel Halima Aden made history as the first woman to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant while wearing a hijab and a burkini. It was a huge moment for inclusivity — and one that raised the bar for the rest of the fashion and beauty industries.
And it looks like Miss Minnesota USA isn't done breaking barriers yet. Last night, the organization awarded the Spirit of Miss USA Award and Director's Award to 22-year-old Mikayla Holmgren, a young woman and dancer who has Down syndrome. Her historic win, which marks the first time a woman with Down syndrome has competed in a Miss USA pageant, was met with standing ovations by the crowd — and audiences around the world were inspired by her story.
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@Mikayla Holmgren - Dancer with Down Syndrome
"I was super shocked, I was in tears," Holmgren told BuzzFeed News, of her wins. "I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It's kind of crazy."
Holmgren, who told Buzzfeed that dancing and performing are an outlet for her to express herself, hopes that her participation in the competition will change people's misperceptions about Down syndrome.“I want to show my personality. I want to show what my life looks like, being happy, and joyful. I want to show what Down syndrome looks like," she told People back in May when she was first starting the application process.
“Mikayla is such an incredible and accomplished young woman," Denise Wallace, executive co-director of Miss Minnesota USA, told People. "She is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants."
Holmgren's participation in the pageant is already inspiring others — including many women who brought their daughters to cheer on Holmgren as she received her tiara, according to the The Pioneer Press. “I was overwhelmed — I was full of so much hope and joy and excitement for her and our future," said Lana Beaton, who brought her 2-year-old daughter Clara, who has Down syndrome, to the pageant.
It's about time the pageant world — and the rest of the world — celebrated all forms of beauty. We're thankful to Miss Minnesota USA for helping lead the charge.