22-year-old Mikayla Holmgren became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA Pageant, taking home two awards late last month.
She had previously competed in the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant.
Holmgren won several awards at Miss USA, including the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director’s Award.
Pageant official Denise Wallace read from Holmgren’s nomination letter for the spirit award.
She said, “You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile, and dance. 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.”
The audience gave Holmgren a standing ovation as she accepted her award. Holmgren said, “I’m so excited. I can’t believe it!”
Holmgren has been a dedicated dancer since the age of six.
Holmgren told Buzzfeed News, “Dancing is a good outlet for me. It’s how I express myself. It’s my talent and I want to show people what I can do and how I can give more.”
In 2015, she was crowned Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing. Holmgren also competed in the national Junior Miss Amazing in Los Angeles.
Wallace told People Magazine, “she is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants – someone who is confidently beautiful.”
Holmgren does not allow her Down syndrome to define her.
Holmgreen was born in Stillwater, Minnesota and is a student at Bethel University.
To keep up with Holmgren’s story, follow her Instagram page @mikholmgren_inspiring_others.
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