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This Model With Down Syndrome Just Became First to Appear in Miss USA Pageant

It was standing room only as Mikayla Holmgren, believed to be the first woman with Down syndrome to appear in a Miss USA Pageant, accepted her Spirit Award at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant in Burnsville, Minnesota, on Sunday. 

Holmgren, 22, received not one, but two standing ovations last night, after winning both the Spirit Award and the Director’s Award, the Pioneer Press reports

“You exude the spirit of Miss USA by always being true to yourself and putting others first,” Denise Wallace Heitkamp, the pageant’s executive state director, said. “You have selflessness, humility and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart.”

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“I’m so excited,” Holmgren said upon receiving the award, according to the Pioneer Press story. “I can’t believe it!”

Holmgren’s no stranger to beauty pageants, having already competed in Junior Miss Amazing pageants in Minnesota and California — pageants for women with special needs. 

But according to the Pioneer Press, pageant organizers believe she is the first-ever woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant nationwide.  

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By appearing in the pageant, Holmgren served as an inspiration to young girls across the country, roughly one in 700 of whom are born with Down syndrome, according to the CDC

“Mikayla is breaking down barriers,” Mary Lynn Loegering, whose 10-year-old daughter Emily also has down syndrome, told the Pioneer Press. “It’s fabulous to have people with disabilities become just part of normal, everyday society.”

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According to KARE 11, Holmgren — a student at Bethel University’s Inclusive Learning and Development program — applied to join the pageant online.  

“I want to do this. My mom is so freaked out but I want to do this,” she said at the time. 

Now, after her daughter appeared in the pageant and won two awards, mother Sandi Holmgren is nothing but proud. 

“Competing in this has been an incredible experience for her,” she told the Pioneer Press. “She’s just amazing. She goes after what she wants.