First woman with Down syndrome competes in Miss USA state pageant

BURNSVILLE, Minn. — Mikayla Holmgren is a dancer and a gymnast who studies at Bethel University —  and she also has Down syndrome

This weekend, 22-year-old Holmgren became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state-level pageant.

Amid standing ovations, Holmgren received the Spirit of Miss USA award and the Director’s Award, according to the Pioneer Press.

“You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile and dance,”  Denise Wallace Heitkamp, executive state director, announced as Holmgren received her awards. “You exude the spirit of Miss USA by always being true to yourself and putting others first. You have selflessness, humility and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart.”

Through the pageant, Holmgren promoted her platform Best Buddies International, an organization that promotes opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

According to KARE11, this is the second year that a Miss Minnesota pageant contestant has been praised for breaking boundaries. Last year, Halima Aden competed in her hijab and burkini.

“I think it says a lot about the people and the community here,” Denise Wallace-Heitkamp with the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant told KARE. “And I think it says a lot about the families here and the young people they’re raising, you know, that those young people see themselves as being able to be the first.”