Mikayla Holmgren from Stillwater, Minnesota, doesn’t let Down syndrome prevent her from going after her goals.
While some people would be surprised to see a young woman with this condition in a beauty pageant, anyone who meets Holmgren knows she was born for this.
“It’s really fun, and I’m doing more pageants,” Holmgren explained. “I’m proud of myself. This is my dream.”
Holmgren, 22, recently took part in a Miss USA state pageant, where she is believed to be the first person with Down syndrome to do so.
Competing for the title for Miss Minnesota, Holmgren’s perseverance in the face of adversity was felt emotionally by the crowd—and even by one of the pageant’s directors.
“Anybody that spends even five minutes with her knows that she is the right person to be the first to represent a community of people that need to see themselves doing something like this,” Denise Wallace Heitkamp, the executive director of the pageant, explained.
Heitkamp went on to call Holmgren a “trailblazer,” saying that her drive is something that should be acknowledged and appreciated by all. Heitkamp was also the director who had the opportunity to read Holmgren’s nomination letter.
“You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile and dance,” Heitkamp read.
“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.”
In an interview with ABC5, Holmgren shared that her secret to having a successful showing at such pageants is having a deep love for the competition.
“I’m really good at them because it’s my passion,” Holmgren explained.
While Holmgren unfortunately didn’t take home the title at the end of the competition, she did receive two honors for her participation: The Spirit Of Miss USA award and the Director’s Award. When she was given the awards, the crowd at the event was said to give Holmgren a rousing standing ovation, some people even with tears in their eyes.
“I’m so excited! I can’t believe it!” Holmgren was said to exclaim in exuberant joy at her awards.
At the end of the day the win went to fellow contestant, Kalie Wright. Holmgren, however, didn’t feel like a loser, but a winner for being able to stand tall as a beacon of inspiration to other with Down syndrome, hopefully spreading the message that truly anything is possible.
“Down syndrome means I have something special,” Mikayla Holmgren explained in an interview with Star-Tribune. “I can warm hearts.”