Mikayla Holmgren made history at the Miss Minnesota pageant

She's the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete for the title.
Publish date:
Updated on

Mikayla Holmgren wasn't crowned Miss Minnesota this weekend, but she definitely stole the show.

As she took the stage at the Ames Center in Burnsville Sunday night, the 22-year-old from Marine on St. Croix made history as the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant.

“Mikayla is a trailblazer,” Denise Wallace, executive co-director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, told the Star Tribune.

You might remember her name. Holmgren first made headlines last spring when she announced she'd been accepted into the pageant.

"And, that is all I want...to be accepted," she wrote on a GoFundMe page at the time. 

Holmgren's story has become a huge inspiration to many. Her Facebook page – Mikayla Holmgren, Dancer with Down Syndrome – has nearly 7,000 followers.

"I want the world to know that Down Syndrome does not define me," Holmgren wrote back in April.

A student in Bethel University's Inclusive Learning and Development program, Holmgren lives on campus, interns at the university's child care center, and devotes much of her free time to mentoring other students with disabilities. 

She's also an award-winning dancer who choreographs her own solos.

In 2015, Holmgren won the Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing pageant, a competition for women with disabilities. She told Buzzfeed News that experience inspired her to take on a bigger challenge.

Though she didn't take home the big title on Sunday (Kalie Wright of Eagle Bend was crowned Miss Minnesota USA), Holmgren received the Miss Minnesota USA Spirit Award and Director’s Award. The Pioneer Press says the crowd gave standing ovations as she accepted the awards.

"I was super shocked, I was in tears," Holmgren told Buzzfeed over FaceTime late Sunday night. "I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It's kind of crazy."

The Miss Minnesota pageant is challenging society's expectations of what a beauty queen looks like. Last year Halima Aden became the first woman to compete wearing a hijab and burkini.

Next Up