Miss Minnesota USA Pageant Features First Contestant With Down Syndrome

Mikayla Holmgren, the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant, brings home special awards.

AceShowbiz - A history was written at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant over the weekend. While she didn't necessarily win the crown, Mikayla Holmgren made history by being the first woman with Down syndrome to compete at the pageant held on Sunday, November 26 at the Ames Center in Burnsville.

Holmgren received the Spirit of Miss USA Award and Director's Award that night. The audience gave the 22-year-old Bethel University student a standing ovation as she accepted the awards. Denise Wallace, the co-director of the pageant, told ABC News, "[Her friend] wrote about how Mikayla lights up a room and has no expectation for people to treat her differently. She's an incredible spirit."

Wallace went on praising Holmgren as she told the Tribune, "Mikayla is a trailblazer." She added of Holmgren, "Everyone loved her, every contestant, every family," calling her "magnetic."

Holmgren had previously been crowned Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing in 2015 and competed in the national Junior Miss Amazing in Los Angeles. She told KSTP of her pageantry experience, "I'm really good at them because it's my passion. It's really fun. As I do more pageants and I'm really proud of myself ... this is my dream."

Of her accomplishments, she told CBS Minnesota, "I’m just really excited, it's out in the world and people are going to know about this. I want to do this, on my own and I'm really, really proud of myself."

Holmgren said she wanted the world to know that her Down syndrome "does not define" her. "With your help, I can help break through walls," she told KARE television.

Holmgren, who began dancing at age 6, revealed her goals in a Facebook post in October, "I hope to continue dancing. I want to teach art to young children. And would love to model. I want to live independently and continue to be an advocate for inclusion. I want to be a light shining for acceptance."

Kalie Wright of Eagle Bend won the Miss Minnesota pageant that night. Last year, the pageant also made history as A Halima Aden, a Somali-American woman, became the first person to compete wearing a hijab. She made it into the semifinal in last year's pageant.

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