Beauty redefined

Melissa Buck

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of Reddit Pics” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]In Burnsville, Minnesota the stage was set for the 2017 Miss USA Minnesota Beauty Pageant on Sunday, Nov. 26. But as the women lined up on stage there was an especially spirited individual among them.

Mikayla Holmgren, 22, became the first woman with Downs Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA beauty pageant. After competing in the contest, Holmgren walked away with the “Spirit of Miss USA” award; a moment that the young “trail blazer” will remember for ever.

“I’m loving it, I’m loving it,” Holmgren said in an interview with CBS news. “I love pageants, actually. [Miss Minnesota USA] is so fun.”

The pageant is judged based on three events: evening gown, swimwear/activewear and an interview. Holmgren competed in all three categories.

According to the pageant’s co-director, Denise Wallace, the spirit award is based off of letters that friends and families send into the pageant explaining why their contestant should win. Holmgren’s close friend from dance class wrote in on behalf of Holmgren.

“(Her friend) wrote about how Mikayla lights up a room and has no expectation for people to treat her differently,” Wallace told ABC News. “She’s an incredible spirit.”

While Holmgren is getting a lot of attention for winning the “Spirit of Miss USA” award, that was not the only prize that she took home. Holmgren was also awarded the “Directors Award,” which is given to a woman who is a standout in the competition.

Holmgren’s new awards will be added to her collection as she also won Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing in 2015. But these awards are just the cherry on top. Holmgren is more proud of her progress and ability to compete in the pageants than anything else. The dancer and competitor is using her status to show that Downs Syndrome does not define her or anyone else with the disability.

“I have special needs and it’s really important,” Holmgren said in an interview with CBS news. “Dream big without limits.”

Holmgren was not alone when she graced the stage on Sunday. In the audience her parents Sandi and Craig Holmgren were just a few members of her fan section.

“[Downs syndrome is] not something that hinders or holds her back, so that’s really inspiring,” her father, Craig Holmgren, said in an interview with CBS News.

While Holmgren was having the time of her life strutting across the stage, she was also serving as an inspiration.

“That just moves a mama’s heart to see that she was loved so much during this pageant,” Sandi Holmgren said in an interview with CBS News. “Before she went out on stage that night, she texted me she said, ‘I’m thankful I’m on stage tonight. I will be the awareness that people need.'”

Holmgren made more than just her parents proud after her successful night. According to audience members, there was not a dry eye in the crowd. Several social media sites have also blown up with Holmgren’s progress in the competition.

“Mikayla is a trailblazer,” Wallace said in an interview with The New York Post. “She is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants — someone who is confidently beautiful.”

While Holmgren did not take home the biggest prize, she will proudly cheer on Kalie Wright, Miss Minnesota USA, in the next level of competition. Holmgren has already been invited to compete in several other high level pageants.

Not only is Holmgren “blazing trails” but the pageant itself is doing the same. Over the past few years Miss USA Minnesota has been working towards equality for all women. Last year Halima Aden became the first woman to compete in a Miss Minnesota USA pageant while wearing a hijab. Several individuals are following in Aden’s steps as seven Muslim women wore hijabs in this year’s competition. It is Holmgren’s hope that young women will follow in her footsteps as they did Aden’s.

“With your help, I can help break through walls,” Holmgren said.