Mikayla Holmgren of Stillwater, Minnesota was one of 51 contestants who competed in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant on November 25. According to KMSP-TV, while she did not end up winning the title, she did achieve a major milestone: she's the first candidate in a Miss USA state competition to have Down syndrome.
But this wasn't Holmgren's first pageant. In 2015, she first competed in the Minnesota Miss Amazing pageant, a pageant created for women with special needs, and she won. She later received a letter in the mail about the Miss Minnesota USA pageant this past April and decided she wanted to compete.
Her mom Sandi Holmgren told BuzzFeed, "I wrote that she had Down syndrome and thought they would pass her by but they decided they wanted her to be a part of it."
Mikayla not only made history, but also took home two awards that night, the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director's Award.
“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," executive state director, Denise Wallace Heitkamp, said as she presented the Spirit Award.
"I was super shocked, I was in tears," Mikayla told BuzzFeed. "I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It's kind of crazy."
Mikayla is currently studying at Bethel University in their Inclusive Learning and Development program. She is also an intern at the university's child care center and an ambassador for the nonprofit Best Buddies.
This is not the first time that history was made during a Miss Minnesota pageant. Just last year, Halima Aden became the first woman to compete wearing a hijab throughout the competition and a burkini during the swimsuit round. Since then, her modeling career has taken off. Aden has recently modeled for American Eagle and made her New York Fashion Week debut in Kanye West's Yeezy Season 5 show after signing with IMG Models.